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18

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

(Acanthagenys rufogularis)
Alternate name(s): "Spring-cheeked Honeyeater"
Size: 23-26 cm
Weight: 37-57 g
Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

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

ADULT

PAIR

Frontal view of a breeding pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, both looking sideways
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Near-frontal view of a pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters feeding on nectar
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2014]

Lateral view of a pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters "serenading" ("Pair Q&A") (photo courtesy of B. Kinross)
[Buntine Rocks, 230 km North of Perth, WA, September 2013]

Sex unknown

Close-up full-frontal view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater; note the all-white spines indicative of an adult bird
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2020]

Close-up frontal view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater looking sideways
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2023]

Frontal view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater looking sideways
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2006]

Close-up near-frontal portrait of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
[Near Narrabri, NSW, April 2017]

Close-up near-lateral portrait of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
[Moree, NSW, September 2015]

Close-up near-lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater issuing its call
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2020]

Close-up near-lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, August 2023]

Lateral portrait of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2023]

Close-up lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, October 2013]

Near-lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater feeding in a Grevillea shrub
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Close-up lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater feeding in a Grevillea shrub
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (photo courtesy of A. Campbell)
[Mount McEuen, QLD, July 2017]

Lateral/ventral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater relaxing in a eucalypt tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater; note the partly yellow spines (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Lake Bindegolly NP, near Thargomindah, QLD, June 2020]

Close-up near-frontal view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater looking sideways (note the yellow spot)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater illuminated from behind
[Near Narrabri, NSW, April 2017]

Close-up lateral view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2008]

Ventral view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater; in the process of moulting into its adult plumage it has lost all its tail feathers
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, May 2017]

Near-lateral views of a fledgling Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater in changing light conditions
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, January 2006]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jul - Feb Eggs: 2 - 4 Incubation period: 14 days Fledging age: ca. 15 - 17 days

Given the right conditions, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters can breed any time of the year.

Nest

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

Type: Suspended basket Material: Grass, webs, fibre Height above ground: 2 - 10 m

Close-up view from above of two Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater chicks in their nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2013]

Close-up view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater nest with two eggs inside
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

View from the side of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater nest in a bottlebrush
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater in its nest in the typical honeyeater stance inside the nest - head and tail high up
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater nest found in a bottlebrush right next to a house entrance
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2015]

Eggs

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

Size: 24 x 18 mm Colour: Creamy, sparsely speckled with brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Close-up view from above into the neatly lined nest of a pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, with two eggs inside (nope, not climbing the tree - done with a mirror from below)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

Close-up view from above onto the two eggshells remaining in a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater nest that was taken down weeks after it had been abandoned
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2015]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Sedentary Elementary unit: Pair

Although usually territorial, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters can gather in relatively large groups of up to about 20. They gather in areas where there are shrubs or trees blossoming.

Close-up lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater basking in the sun after a bath
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2023]

Distant lateral views of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters in display flight; they usually call most actively very early in the morning
[Near Narrabri, NSW, August 2013 and October 2014]

Food, Diet

Adults: Nectar, insects Dependents: Insects Water intake: Daily

Like many other honeyeaters Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters like the flowers of Callistemon (bottlebrush) trees, which often grow in sandy creek beds. Again like many other honeyeaters, they do not exclusively feed on nectar, but use their sticky tongue to take insects too. They enjoy a very varied diet, as shown in the photos below.

Lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater feasting on the nectar of an ironbark eucalypt
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater visiting the flowers of a Hakea laurina
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2023]

This Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is using its tongue to lick the liquid secretions of psyllids from the underside of eucalypt leaves
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Although here the tongue cannot be seen, one can discern what the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is after - the sugary liquid that, when crystallized, is called a "lerp"; the sap-sucking insects producing these secretions, psyllids, are visible in the upper left-hand corner
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Only when the supply of dew is exhausted, the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater turns to feeding directly on psyllids
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Next thing, the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater caught itself a decent-sized insect in flight...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

... which had to be turned before it could be swallowed
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater with its tongue sticking out (photo courtesy of A. Campbell)
[Mount McEuen, QLD, October 2016]

Near-frontal view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater hovering to drink from a leaking garden sprinkler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2006]

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.

spinhon_20180516.m4a (NW NSW) Contact call(?) © MD
spinhon_20190206_2.m4a (NW NSW) Extended contact call(?) © MD
spinhon_20190206.m4a (NW NSW) Arrival + territorial call © MD
spinhon_20190227.m4a (NW NSW) Territorial calls (Pair Q&A) © MD
spinhon_20191112.m4a (NW NSW) Territorial calls (display flight) © MD
spinhon_20190227_2.m4a (NW NSW) Territorial display incl. bill snaps © MD
spinhon_20191117.m4a (NW NSW) Territorial calls (Q&A); competing males (+ Brown Honeyeater) © MD
spinhon_20141003_2.mp3 (NW NSW) "Song contest" (with Striped Honeyeater) © MD
spinhon_20230726_2.mp3 (NW NSW) Various © MD
spinhon_20210320_2.m4a (NW NSW) Various © MD
spinhon_20230726.mp3 (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_20210320.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_20171209.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_20200609.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_20220130.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_jg_20160806.m4a (Ctl WA) ? © JG

Below a recording of three different species of honeyeaters competing for territorial supremacy: First to call is a Singing Honeyeater, with answers from a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater and then also a pair of Striped Honeyeaters.

singhon_20150911.mp3 (NW NSW) Competing territorial calls © MD

We have also recorded the wing beat of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.

spinhon_20171116.m4a (NW NSW) Short flutter © MD

More Spiny-cheeked 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.