White-eared Honeyeater

Did you know?

The White-eared Honeyeater is renowned for its habit of collecting hair from people's heads to line its nest.

Calls
Deep, slightly metallic voice. Calls included a loud 'chew chew chew' or a two-note: 'tch-tchew, tch-tchew'.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
20cm
Maximum Size: 
21cm
Average size: 
20cm
Average weight: 
20g
Breeding season: 
Most months of the year; in Sydney, August to October.
Clutch Size: 
Usually two, sometimes three.
Conservation Status
Federal: 
NSW: 
QLD: 
SA: 
VIC: 
WA: 
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
617
What does it look like?
Description: 

The White-eared Honeyeater is a medium-sized honeyeater with a strong bill. It is olive-green above with lighter green underparts. It has a grey cap, a black face and bib (under bill) with a distinctive, contrasting white ear-patch. The sexes are similar in plumage but the males are larger. Young are duller and browner. Usually seen in pairs or small family groups, and are quite noisy and conspicuous.

Similar species: 

The White-eared Honeyeater is rarely confused with other honeyeaters. The similarly sized Lewin's Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii is much larger and darker, with a yellow ear patch, and lacks the black face and bib.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The White-eared Honeyeater is found in mainland eastern and southern Australia, ranging from south-eastern Queensland, mainly east of the Great Dividing Range, to eastern South Australia, with populations in southern Western Australia. It is widespread in the Sydney sandstone region.

Habitat: 

The White-eared Honeyeater is found mainly in dry eucalypt forests and woodlands, with a well-developed understorey. They can also be found in a range of heath, shrubland and scrub habitats, and at a variety of altitudes, from the coast to the tree line in the Southern Alps, but are rarely found in tropical zone. They are not common in agricultural areas, but will be seen in gardens, orchards and vineyards in rural areas. In Sydney they forage in mangroves.

Seasonal movements: 

Sedentary, with some local migration; altitudinal migration in Southern Alps.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

The White-eared Honeyeater feeds mainly on insects, but also nectar, fruit, manna, lerp, and honeydew (insect by-products). They forage under strips of bark or in crevices, mainly of eucalypts, and also feed at wounds on tree trunks.

Breeding: 

White-eared Honeyeaters usually build their nests close to the ground in shrubs or low trees, making a deep, thick-walled, open cup, lined with the fur or hair of mammals, including humans. The female incubates the eggs, and the young are fed by both parents. Nests are parasitized by the Fan-tailed and Pallid Cuckoos, and the Horsfield's and Shining Bronze-cuckoos.

Living with us

The White-eared Honeyeater has declined in the Western Australian wheat belt where extensive clearing has occurred and is less common in regenerating forests after logging activities and bushfires. It does not like to fly over open spaces, preferring to use corridors with tree cover.

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