Discovered as recently as 2005 (2), the wattled smoky honeyeater (Melipotes carolae) has the distinction of being the first new bird species to be discovered in its native New Guinea since 1939 (3). Expedition leader Bruce Beehler discovered the species (4), and named it after his wife Carol (1).
One of just four species within the Melipotes genus (5), the wattled smoky honeyeater is a medium-sized songbird (2) with a short tail (5) and a short, stocky black bill (1) (2) (5). Its eyes are dark brown and its legs are black (1). Overall, the wattled smoky honeyeater’s plumage is sooty-grey (1) (2), although the crown is black and the breast feathers have light grey edging. This species also sports a dull grey throat patch (1).
While its plumage may not be particularly striking, the wattled smoky honeyeater has a rather distinctive face, with an orange-red patch of bare skin surrounding each eye (1) (2). This skin is much deeper in colour than in other Melipotes species, and it extends into a soft, fleshy, pendant-like wattle on each side of the face, which is a unique trait within this genus (1).
Unlike other Melipotes honeyeaters, the wattled smoky honeyeater is an extremely quiet species, rarely producing any vocalisations (1) (2).
- Also known as
- Farfak honeyeater, orange-wattled honeyeater.
- c. 52.5 g (1)
Wattled smoky honeyeater biology
As the wattled smoky honeyeater is a recently discovered species, there is relatively little information available on its biology. However, this inconspicuous bird is known to forage within low vegetation at the edge of forest openings (2), where it feeds mainly on small fruits (1) (2).
The wattled smoky honeyeater’s breeding season is unknown. However, given that no evidence of nesting or reproductive behaviour was reported during field studies carried out from late November to early December, it is not believed to be at that time of year (1).
When agitated, other species within the Melipotes genus flush their lighter-coloured facial skin patch to become a deep orange or reddish colour. However, as the wattled smoky honeyeater’s skin patch is this deep colour in its normal state, the species does not show evidence of facial flushing (1).
Wattled smoky honeyeater range
The wattled smoky honeyeater is endemic to the Foja Mountains of New Guinea, an isolated range in Papua province in the western part of the island (1) (2) (6).
Wattled smoky honeyeater habitat
The wattled smoky honeyeater is found in the interior and at the edges of humid, tropical submontane forest, which is believed to receive about three or four metres of rainfall per year (1). First recorded at an elevation of 1,650 metres (2), the wattled smoky honeyeater is only known to occur above elevations of 1,150 metres (1).
Wattled smoky honeyeater status
The wattled smoky honeyeater has yet to be classified on the IUCN Red List.
Wattled smoky honeyeater threats
Despite having a very restricted range, the wattled smoky honeyeater is considered to be a common species and is not thought to be facing any major threats at present (2).
The wattled smoky honeyeater is not considered to be threatened, and there are currently no known conservation measures in place for this species.
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- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Submontane forest
- Forest occurring in the foothills or lower slopes of a mountainous region.
- A fleshy organ that hangs from the bill, throat or eye of some bird species.
Beehler, B.M., Prawiradilaga, D.M., De Fretes, Y. and Kemp, N. (2007) A new species of smoky honeyeater (Meliphagidae: Melipotes) from western New Guinea. The Auk, 124(3): 1000-1009. Available at:
Conservation International: Bird Discoveries - Wattled smoky honeyeater (January, 2013)
BBC News (2006) Science team finds ‘lost world’. BBC News, 7 February. Available at:
Kricher, J. (2011) Tropical Ecology. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D.A. (2008) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13: Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Internet Bird Collection - Wattled smoky honeyeater (December, 2012)