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Welcome to Birdata 25 October 2014

Yellow-throated Honeyeater: Endemic to Tasmania

Frank Knight

Of the four species of honeyeaters that occur in Tasmania and nowhere else, undoubtedly the most striking is the Yellow-throated Honeyeater. A conspicuous yellow throat patch is its most prominent feature, and this creates a brilliant contrast with the charcoal-grey plumage of the bird's face and underparts. Its tonk tonk tonk calls are a characteristic sound of the Tasmanian bush as it fossicks about for food among the leaves and branches of trees. The other honeyeaters are dull in comparison. The Yellow Wattlebird is a large cumbersome honeyeater with drab plumage, a grotesque set of pendulous yellow wattles dangling from its face and a querulous disposition. The Strong-billed Honeyeater and the Black-headed Honeyeater are closely related, and look rather similar to each other (and also to several closely-related birds on the mainland). Both have a black head, olive-green upperparts and are whitish below, the most obvious difference being a white crescent which stretches across the back of the Strong-billed Honeyeater's head.

The Yellow-throated Honeyeater is most closely related to the White-eared Honeyeater of mainland Australia, but the two populations were separated from each other thousands of years ago. The rising seas which created Bass Strait formed an ecological barrier that neither population could cross. Since then, they have gone down slightly different evolutionary paths. The most obvious difference between the Tasmanian bird and its mainland relative is the prominent yellow throat patch. So characteristic of the Tasmanian honeyeater, it is lacking on the White-eared Honeyeater. Both species, however, have similar habits: they have both largely forsaken a diet of nectar , preferring to probe beneath bark in search of invertebrates, or glean insects from the foliage of trees in a wide variety of habitats.

The accompanying map shows that the Yellow-throated Honeyeater is widespread throughout Tasmania, including on King Island and the Furneaux Group in Bass Strait, but it has never been recorded on the Australian mainland, just a short flight across the water.

If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just follow this link and you can explore BirdLife Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds.


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