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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


Click here for sighting information


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


Sex unknown

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

Frontal view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater in a Casuarina tree, where it was feeding on nectar from its flowers; note the all-white spines indicative of an adult bird
[Near Narrabri, NSW, September 2006]

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

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

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

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

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

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater relaxing in a eucalypt tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater feeding in a Grevillea bush
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater feeding in a Grevillea bush
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2007]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater issuing its characteristic call
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2011]

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

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

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater preening
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Breeding pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters inspecting the intruder
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

Distant lateral view of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater in flight
[Yarrie Lake, NSW, August 2013]


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]

Frontal/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, Mayy 2017]

Near-frontal view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (note the yellow spot)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2011]

Lateral view of a juvenile Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
[Near Narrabri, NSW, April 2017]

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, Mayy 2017]

Fledgling Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (click on image to see the bird with its head turned)
[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.


"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

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

The nest shown below in a bottlebrush tree was only built once the tree's flowers had wilted and therefore other honeyeaters' interest in it had waned. At the time the birds nested, the tree was in its growth phase and thereby particularly dense.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater nest in an oleander with two chicks in it
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2013]

In this photo the focus is on the two Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater chicks
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2013]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater nest in a bottlebrush tree
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

The same Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater nest as above, now with its occupant in the typical honeyeater posture 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]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater collecting nesting material
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]


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

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

View from above into the neatly lined nest of a pair of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, with two eggs inside
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2011]

A few weeks later it became clear that the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters were having no success with their attempt; one egg was left in the nest, at an incorrect angle, the other egg had vanished
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2011]

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]


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 bushes or trees blossoming.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater calling in display flight, mostly observed by us very early in the morning
[Near Narrabri, NSW, October 2014]

Seen calling in display flights, as described in field guides, mostly very early in the morning.

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 creekbeds. 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.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater feasting on the nectar of ironbark eucalypt flowers
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater taking nectar head-down
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2013]

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 insects producing these secretions, psyllids, are visible in the upper left-hand corner of the photo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

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

Sometimes there is a waiting queue at a source of nectar
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2014]

Birds of the Australian interior, such as Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, know exactly where to find water, even in a leaking sprinkler...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2013]

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater hovering in front of a leaking garden sprinkler
[Eulah Creek, NSW, December 2006]


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_20200516.m4a (NW NSW) Various © MD
spinhon_20210320_2.m4a (NW NSW) Various © MD
spinhon_20210320.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_20171209.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_20200609.m4a (NW NSW) ? © MD
spinhon_jg_20160806.m4a (Ctl WA) ? © JG
Click here for more recordings

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
spinhon_20140723_2.mp3 (NW NSW) Short flutter © MD

More Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater sound recordings are available at .

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.