Black-chinned Honeyeater Click to enlarge image
Black-chinned Honeyeater, Melithreptus gularis Image: Purnell Collection
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    14 cm to 16 cm

When choosing hair or fur to make its nest the Black-chinned Honeyeater tends to choose pale colours, plucking the white or cream hairs from cattle and horses (and even from a cat), as well as wool from sheep.


The Black-chinned Honeyeater is the largest Melithreptus honeyeater on the mainland. It is a medium-sized stocky honeyeater with a black head, short black bill and a short tail. Adults are olive green or golden yellow above, pale brown grey to off-white below, with a prominent white crescent across the back of the neck, a black chin bounded by white on each side, and has a bright blue patch of skin above the eye. The northern sub-species, M.gularis laetior, is known as the Golden-backed Honeyeater for its golden-yellow back, and its eye-skin tends to be green to yellow rather than blue. Young birds resemble adults but are duller in colour, with a brown crown and a yellow-orange bill. This species is noisy, gregarious and active, moving in small groups of up to twelve birds throughout the year.


The Black-chinned Honeyeater is found in the upper levels of open eucalypt forests and woodlands dominated by box and ironback eucalypts. It is often found along waterways, especially in arid and semi-arid areas and in northern Australia. It is occasionally seen in gardens and street trees.


The Black-chinned Honeyeater is found on mainland Australia from the Gulf Country of Queensland south to Cloncurry and is widespread in central and eastern Queensland. It is rarely found east of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales, although it is found regularly in the Richmond River district south to Grafton and at scattered sites in the Hunter Valley, Central Coast and Illawarra. It is widespread on the western slopes and plains and south into Victoria, being found mostly in the northern foothills of the Great Dividing Range and into the western parts of the state. It is scattered in south-eastern South Australia. In Western Australia it is mainly found north of 22°176’ S, in the Pilbara, Kimberley and Great Sandy and northern Gibson Deserts. It is found in the Top End of the Northern Territory but not around Darwin or in Arnhem Land, and is widespread further south to about 21°176’ S.


Local movements associated with flowering of food-plants, sometimes considered nomadic, with local seasonal movements in some areas.

Feeding and diet

The Black-chinned Honeyeater feeds mainly on nectar and insects, but will sometimes eat seeds. It usually forages in the upper canopy on the outermost flowers and foliage, and is usually seen in groups of up to 12 birds. It will sometimes feed with other honeyeaters such as the Yellow-tinted, White-plumed, White-gaped, Brown-backed, Black, Dusky and Rufous-throated Honeyeaters, as well as with Crimson Chats.


Loud churring or scratchy 'creep-creep-creep'. Also gives beautiful, complex song.

Breeding behaviours

The Black-chinned Honeyeater will often breed co-operatively, with up to four adults helping the females to feed the young. At the start of the breeding season the males become agitated and aggressive, attacking even larger birds of other species, and defend a breeding territory. The female builds the nest, with helpers sometimes bringing materials or accompanying the female bird while she builds. The nest is placed high in the crown of a tree, hidden by foliage and slung by the rim from the outer leaves of a branch. It is a compact, cup-shaped nest formed from bark fibres, woven with hair, wool or fur and matted into a thick, hairy 'felt', and is lined with wool, hair or fur. The female incubates the eggs (possibly with the assistance of her helpers) and both parents and helpers tend the young.

Conservation status

The Black-chinned Honeyeater was formerly more common around Sydney, and New South Wales populations may be declining generally. The eastern New South Wales sub-species M. gularis gularis is considered vulnerable.


  • Higgins, P.J., Peter, J.M. and Steele, W.K. (eds) 2001. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 5 (Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.