One sub-species of the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, known as the Helmeted Honeyeater, is endangered.
The Yellow-tufted Honeyeater is a striking, medium to medium-large honeyeater with a slightly down-curved bill. It is olive-brown above, yellowish grey below, with a black face mask and bright yellow ear tufts and sides of the throat. The males are slightly larger but the sexes are otherwise similar. Young are duller and paler, with yellow areas washed green. There are three subspecies, two of which are fairly similar (L. m. melanops and L. m. meltoni) and one which is much larger, with brighter plumage (L. m. cassidix). This latter subspecies is known as the Helmeted Honeyeater and is endangered, being restricted to the Yellingbo area of Victoria.
The Yellow-tufted Honeyeater is found in open dry forests and woodlands dominated by eucalypts, and often near water. They sometimes visit gardens. The endangered Helmeted Honeyeater (subspecies L. m. cassidix) is confined to narrow patches of tall forest along streams or in swamps.
Endemic to eastern and south-eastern mainland Australia, the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater is found from the Tropic of Capricorn (Queensland) to south-western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia. The range of the endangered subspecies L. m. cassidix has contracted from a large portion of south-western Victoria to a small area near Yellingbo.
The more common subspecies of the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater show some movement in autumn and winter from open forest to wooded gullies, usually associated with food availability. The endangered subspecies L. m. cassidix is sedentary.
Feeding and diet
The Yellow-tufted Honeyeater feeds singly or in twos, or in groups of up to ten outside the breeding season, in the canopy of trees and shrubs. It feeds mainly on nectar from eucalypt flowers and insects from leaves and bark. The Helmeted Honeyeater (sub-species L. m. cassidix) specialises on feeding from the Mountain Swamp Gum and also commonly feeds on the sap from injuries on eucalypt trunks.
Has a varied single-note contact or alarm call: tsup, shup, jik, chow or scow. Also has various soft notes used as social calls, and a soft 'weet-weet-weet' territorial call.
The Yellow-tufted Honeyeater is gregarious, breeding in colonies or 'neighbourhoods' of adjacent territories. Pairs are monogamous, staying together on the same territory. Parents are occasionally assisted with feeding and nest cleaning by 'helpers'. The tightly woven, cup-shaped nests are hung in understorey shrubs. The females do most of the incubation, but both parents, plus any helpers, feed the young. Two or three broods may be raised in a season.
- Breeding Season: July to January.
The Helmeted Honeyeater (subspecies L. m. cassidix) is most adversely affected by land-clearing along hillsides, which leads to the disturbance and deterioration of vegetation (e.g. psyllid infestations in stressed trees) and the subsequent arrival of aggressive species that out-compete them for breeding territories (such as the Bell Miner). Replanting of suitable habitat at Yellingbo, Victoria, has improved Helmeted Honeyeater breeding and foraging in that area.