Painted honeyeater (Grantiella picta)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyMeliphagidae
GenusGrantiella (1)
SizeHead-body length: 15 cm (2)
Male weight: 20.5 – 25 g (2)
Female weight: 18 g (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The painted honeyeater is a small, rare bird (3), noted for the bright flashes of yellow that decorate the wing and tail edges (4). The rest of the plumage on the upperparts is black, contrasting with predominantly white underparts, and subtle dark spots adorn the sides of the body (4). It has a distinctive pink bill (4) and a small white spot on each side of the neck (4). Females and juvenile painted honeyeaters differ from males by their smaller size, browner plumage, and fewer spots on the sides (4). The call of the painted honeyeater is conspicuous and far-carrying (3).

The painted honeyeater is found only in Australia, where it is sparsely distributed from southern Victoria and south-eastern South Australia, to Queensland and the Northern Territory (5).

The painted honeyeater is most commonly found in dry forests, particularly those dominated by Acacia or Eucalyptus species. Living high in the canopy, the painted honeyeater particularly prefers dense, mature, undisturbed forest with a high abundance of mistletoe, its primary food source (5). This species has also been recorded in open farmland areas if an abundance of mistletoe is available for foraging (6).

Frequenting the upper canopy of trees, the painted honeyeater forages in small groups, pairs, or alone, almost exclusively on mistletoe (particularly Amyema species) (7). Although it feeds mainly upon the berries, making it an important distributor of mistletoe seeds (3), it also occasionally feeds on the nectar from the flowers and insects may be plucked from the plant (7).

Breeding occurs from around September through to February. Together the male and female build a thin, delicate, cup-shaped nest from grasses, thin roots, and occasionally spidersweb or wool. Two eggs are typically laid per brood and the eggs and young are attended to by both parents until they fledge. A maximum of two broods may be raised each season. The eggs and young painted honeyeaters are vulnerable to predation, particularly from the spiny-cheeked honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) (4).

Historically, much of the suitable habitat for the painted honeyeater in Queensland and New South Wales was cleared, and by 1999, just an estimated 11 percent of Acacia woodland remained in Queensland. The rate of deforestation remained high into the early 2000s, with around five percent lost annually in the region (5). It was estimated in 2007 that less than 4,000 mature painted honeyeaters remained in the wild and today numbers continue to decline, as its habitat continues to be cleared for agriculture, or is degraded by grazing livestock and rabbits (5).

Legislation inhibiting the large-scale removal of woodland in New South Wales was implemented in 1997. Despite this, however, a total area of 640,000 hectares of woodland was approved for clearing in the region between 1998 and 2005 (5). In-depth studies into the ecology of the painted honeyeater have been carried out, although a better understanding of its ecology and long-term species monitoring would help aid future species management (5).

Proposed conservation measures include securing all painted honeyeater populations on public and private land through improved management, and educating and providing incentives to private land owners to encourage managing their land in a way that is beneficial to the painted honeyeater. This requires the maintenance of a diverse woodland community, with a high abundance of mature trees and mistletoes (5).

To find out about the conservation of Australian birds see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (June, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Higgins, P.J., Peter, J.M., and Steele, W.K. (2001) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  3. Silveira, C. and Menkhorsdt, P. (2003) Action Statement No. 193: Painted Honeyeater. Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria.
  4. ACT Government (1999) Painted Honeyeater(Grantiella picta): A Vulnerable Species. ActionPlan No. 19. Environment ACT, Canberra.
  5. BirdLife International (May, 2010)
    http://www.birdlife.org
  6. Emison, W.B., Beardsell, C.M., Norman, F.I. and Loyn, R.H. (1987) Atlas of Victorian Birds. Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands and RAOU, Melbourne.
  7. Oliver, D.L., Quin, B.R., Quin, D.G., Walpole, R.M. and Walpole, S.C. (1998) Observations of nectar and insect feeding by painted honeyeaters Grantiella picta. Australian Bird Watcher, 17: 353-355.
  8. Birds Australia (June, 2010)
    http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au/our-projects/painted-honeyeater-wbc.html