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18

Brown Honeyeater

(Lichmera indistincta)
Alternate name(s): "Least Honeyeater"
Aboriginal name(s): Race "indistincta": "djindjoko", "kyeet" (WA)

Size: 12-16 cm; wing span 18-23 cm
Weight: 9-11 g

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Brown Honeyeater at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "indistincta"

ADULT

MALE

BREEDING

Close-up frontal/ventral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, August 2023]

Near-lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Balingup, WA, May 2016]

Lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage in a flowering eucalypt (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, August 2023]

Most Brown Honeyeaters have a clearly visible pale-yellow skin patch behind the eyes (above), while some others don't show this feature (photos courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, June 2020]

Lateral/ventral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage; note that the bird is ringed (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, December 2017]

Close-up dorsal view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage looking sideways (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[Lake Herdsman, Perth, WA, August 2023]

NON-BREEDING

Near-frontal view of a Brown Honeyeater, possibly a male in non-breeding plumage(?) - note the faint yellow gape and grey crown; this is the bird whose calls were recorded on 25 February 2018 (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, February 2018]

Close-up lateral view of a Brown Honeyeater, possibly a male in non-breeding plumage(?) (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Whites Hill Reserve, Brisbane, February 2019]

Near-dorsal view of a Brown Honeyeater, possibly a male in non-breeding plumage(?) (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, April 2018]

Dorsal view of a Brown Honeyeater, possibly a male in non-breeding plumage(?), looking sideways
[Darwin, NT, August 2014]

FEMALE

Near-lateral view of a female Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, February 2018]

Near-lateral view of a female Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, February 2018]

Lateral view of a female Brown Honeyeater harvesting a spider's web, probably for binding its nest
(photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, February 2018]

Lateral view of a female Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Ivanhoe Crossing, Kununurra, WA, January 2016]

Dorsal view of a female Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, February 2018]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-frontal view of a juvenile Brown Honeyeater; note the yellow gape and the olive-yellow wash (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Mount Isa, QLD, June 2021]

Lateral view of a juvenile(?) Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Charles Darwin NP, Darwin, NT, January 2019]

Lateral view of a juvenile Brown Honeyeater; note the extensive yellow gape (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Lake Argyle, near Kununurra, WA, April 2018]

Race "ocularis"

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

MALE

BREEDING

Frontal view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage in its little hideaway
[Narrabri Lake, May 2012]

Frontal view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage looking sideways
[Near Narrabri, NSW, October 2010]

Near-frontal view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage looking sideways
[Narrabri Lake, September 2011]

Near-frontal/ventral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage; note the unusual yellow stripe down the middle of the belly
(photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Cairns, QLD, July 2018]

Near-lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of B. Hensen)
[Cairns, QLD, July 2013]

Lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage looking towards the observer
[Eulah Creek, July 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, September 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage
[Narrabri Lake, September 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Cairns, QLD, July 2018]

Lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Botanical Gardens, Maleny, QLD, August 2019]

Lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage looking away from the observer
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Dorsal view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, September 2013]

Lateral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in breeding plumage launching itself into the air from a Banksia flower (photo courtesy of I. Duncan)
[South West Rocks, NSW, September 2012]

NON-BREEDING

Close-up frontal view of a male Brown Honeyeater in non-breeding plumage; note the barely visible pale-yellow gape
[Eulah Creek, NSW, June 2024]

Close-up near-frontal view of a male Brown Honeyeater in non-breeding plumage; note the barely visible pale-yellow gape
[Eulah Creek, NSW, June 2024]

Near-frontal/ventral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in non-breeding plumage(?); the bird is in a tail moult
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, March 2007]

Close-up ventral view of a male Brown Honeyeater in non-breeding plumage(?)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2024]

FEMALE

Frontal view of a female Brown Honeyeater; note the pale-yellow gape in the breeding season (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Sandy Camp Wetlands, Lytton, QLD, September 2018]

Close-up near-frontal view of a female Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Cooroy, QLD, December 2017]

Near-lateral view of a female Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Chili Beach, Cape York peninsula, QLD, August 2019]

Frontal/ventral view of a female Brown Honeyeater going into all kinds of contortions to dry its plumage
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, December 2011]

Close-up near-dorsal view of a female Brown Honeyeater looking sideways
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2023]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-lateral/ventral view of a juvenile Brown Honeyeater; note the yellow-olive wash
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2021]

Lateral view of a juvenile Brown Honeyeater looking backwards
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2021]

Lateral view of a juvenile Brown Honeyeater
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2018]

Race "melvillensis"

ADULT

FEMALE

Lateral view of a female Brown Honeyeater (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Maxwell Creek, Melville Island, off Darwin, NT, November 2016]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jun - Jan Eggs: 2 - 3 Incubation period: ca. 11 days Fledging age: 12 - 14 days

The breeding season varies with geographical latitude. In the tropical north it runs from about April to November.

Nest building: ? Incubation: Female Dependent care: Female & male

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Suspended basket Material: Bark shreds, grass stems, webs; plant down lining Height above ground: 1 - 5 m

Fledgling Brown Honeyeater the day before it left its nest (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, July 2017]

Two half-naked Brown Honeyeater chicks in their nest (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, July 2017]

Although still half-naked, the Brown Honeyeater chicks can open their eyes (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, July 2017]

View from above into the nest of a pair of Brown Honeyeaters, with two half-naked chicks inside; the key tag gives an indication of the size of nest and chicks (photo courtesy of R. Shepherd)
[Bundaberg, QLD, October 2015]

Unhappy Brown Honeyeater watching as an human approaches their nest (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, July 2017]

Female Brown Honeyeater sitting on its nest (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, October 2012]

Lateral view of a female Brown Honeyeater working on its nest (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Sandy Camp Road Wetlands, Lytton, QLD, June 2024]

Female Brown Honeyeater with what looks like nesting material (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, May 2013]

Female Brown Honeyeater "harvesting" cob webs for binding the nest (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, August 2013]

We once observed a Brown Honeyeater pulling sheep wool from a barbed wire fence to line its nest.

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 17 x 14 mm Colour: Creamy Shape: Tapered oval

View from above onto Brown Honeyeater eggs (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, October 2012]

View from above onto Brown Honeyeater eggs (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, July 2017]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Dispersive Elementary unit: Solitary/pair

Brown Honeyeaters can feed while hovering (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, August 2012]

Food, Diet

Like many other honeyeaters, Brown Honeyeaters do not exclusively feed on nectar, but take insects too. This is one of the honeyeaters that will feed mostly on nectar. Often seen by us in various kinds of eucalypt, e.g. mugga ironbark and citriodora. They profit from the creation of urban gardens and parks.

Frontal view of a male Brown Honeyeater feeding on the nectar of an ironbark eucalypt flower
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2008]

Lateral/ventral view of a male Brown Honeyeater feeding in a bottlebrush
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, September 2006]

Near-dorsal view of a male Brown Honeyeater feeding in a bottlebrush (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Maules Creek, NSW, October 2012]

Near-dorsal view of a male Brown Honeyeater feeding in a Mistletoe
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, March 2013]

Frontal view of a female Brown Honeyeater feeding in a Grevillea robusta
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, March 2013]

Female Brown Honeyeater feeding in a Grevillea (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, July 2013]

Male Brown Honeyeater feeding on the nectar of a mangrove flower (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, December 2017]

Male Brown Honeyeater feeding on the nectar of a Strelitzia flower (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, August 2012]

Male Brown Honeyeater taking unripe seeds of a bottlebrush (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, October 2011]

Near-dorsal view of a Brown Honeyeater picking insects out of the heads of reeds - and going after them when they flew out
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2017]

Near-frontal view of a Brown Honeyeater with what looks like a tiny caterpillar (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Sandy Camp Road Wetlands, Lytton, QLD, August 2017]

Insects such as butterflies feed on nectar from flowers; so do Brown Honeyeaters - bad luck then if a butterly gets in the way of a Brown Honeyeater keen on a bit of extra protein...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2024]

Ventral view of a Brown Honeyeater shooting out of a tree to take a moth (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, August 2013]

Near-dorsal view of a Brown Honeyeater, left, and Fuscous Honeyeater in breeding plumage at a waterhole
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, October 2018]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

brhon_pb_20180512.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Territorial call (early morning) © PB
brhon_pb_20180513.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Territorial calls (early morning) © PB
brhon_20140818_5.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Territorial call © MD
brhon_cp_20220823.mp3 indistincta
(SW WA)
Territorial calls © CP
brhon_pb_20180726.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Territorial calls (long sequence) © PB
brhon_pb_20200612.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Break of dawn calls © PB
brhon_20140818_5.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Territorial dispute? © MD
brhon_pb_20180225_1.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Various (female) © PB
brhon_pb_20180225_2.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
Various (female) © PB
brhon_20140818_3.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
? © MD
brhon_20140818.m4a indistincta
(Top End, NT)
? © MD
 
brhon_20230726.mp3 ocularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls © MD
brhon_20200824.m4a ocularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls © MD
brhon_art_20131105.m4a ocularis
(SE QLD)
Territorial calls © ART
brhon_20161026.m4a ocularis
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (Q&A) © MD
brhon_20140416.mp3 ocularis
(NW NSW)
Feeding call © MD
brhon_20140722.mp3 ocularis
(NW NSW)
Annoyed call © MD
brhon_art_20131110.m4a ocularis
(SE QLD)
Defending food source © ART
brhon_20140107_2.mp3 ocularis
(NW NSW)
Defending food source © MD
brhon_20160920.m4a ocularis
(NE NSW)
Various © MD
brhon_20140911.mp3 ocularis
(NW NSW)
? © MD
Click here for more recordings

We have also recorded the wing beat of a Brown Honeyeater.

brhon_20230726_2.mp3 ocularis
(NW NSW)
Arrival and departure © MD

More Brown Honeyeater sound recordings are available at xeno-canto.org .

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.