Like other honeyeaters, the brown honeyeater is specially adapted for feeding on nectar. Its protrusible, brush-tipped tongue is able to soak up nectar like a mop, before being withdrawn and squeezed out against the roof of the mouth so that the nectar runs back down the tongue into the throat (4). In addition to feeding on nectar, the brown honeyeater supplements its diet with some small insects and spiders (2) (3).
Foraging takes place at all levels of the forest (2) (3), and the brown honeyeater may sometimes hang below a branch to probe for nectar from pendulous flowers. Insects are usually taken from the vegetation or from bark, but may also be caught in the air (2). The brown honeyeater is usually active and noisy (2) (4) and may be seen either alone, in pairs, or in small flocks in flowering trees, sometimes in mixed flocks with other bird species (2) (3).
The brown honeyeater generally breeds between April and November in the north of its range, and between June and February in the south. During the breeding season, the male brown honeyeater defends a nesting territory by singing from a tall tree, and stands guard while the female builds the nest and lays the eggs (3). The male may also sometimes help in nest construction (2).
The nest of the brown honeyeater is usually located in a tree or shrub, typically well concealed in dense foliage, but may also sometimes be built in a fallen tree or among rushes or ferns. This species’ nest is an open cup of fine bark, grass, plant down and sometimes paper, bound together with spider webs and lined with plant down, hair, fine grass or flowers (2) (3) (5). Spider egg sacs and cocoons may sometimes be attached to the outside (2) (5). The whole structure is characteristically suspended from twigs by its rim (3) (4) (5).
The brown honeyeater lays a clutch of 1 to 3 eggs, which are incubated by the female for around 13 to 14 days (2) (5). The young honeyeaters are fed by both adults (2) (5) and leave the nest at 13 to 17 days old (2). The nests of the brown honeyeater are sometimes parasitised by cuckoos such as the brush cuckoo (Cacomantis variolosus), pallid cuckoo (Cuculus pallidus) and Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo (Chrysococcyx basalis) (2) (3).