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18

White-plumed Honeyeater

(Ptilotula penicillata)
Alternate name(s): "Greenie", "Linner", "Chickoowee",
"Ringeye", "Ringneck", "Australian Canary*"
Aboriginal name(s): "chickowee"

Size: 15-17 cm
Weight: 15-24 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 White-plumed Honeyeater at Wikipedia .

Click here for classification information

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "penicillata"

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

ADULT

Sex unknown

Frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater looking sideways; note the clearly visible passerine foothold
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2012]

Frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater looking sideways (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Durikai SF, near Warwick, QLD, March 2018]

Close-up frontal view of an adult White-plumed Honeyeater looking sideways; for some reason, this bird does not have a black plume above its white one
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2024]

Close-up near-frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater looking at the observer
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2023]

Close-up near-frontal view of a preening White-plumed Honeyeater
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2023]

Near-frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater checking its surroundings while drinking from a waterhole
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, December 2011]

Near-lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2012]

Close-up lateral portrait of a White-plumed Honeyeater
[Near Narrabri, NSW, June 2012]

Close-up lateral view of an erect White-plumed Honeyeater
[Near Narrabri, NSW, June 2012]

Close-up lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater
[Near Narrabri, NSW, June 2012]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2011]

Close-up lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater with its tongue sticking out
[Eulah Creek, NSW, February 2016]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater showing its wirebrush tongue (no disrespect intended...)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2023]

Near-lateral and near-dorsal view of White-plumed Honeyeaters (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, July 2011]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Near-lateral view of an immature White-plumed Honeyeater; the bill is starting to turn dark
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, March 2008]

Near-dorsal view of an immature White-plumed Honeyeater
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2016]

Dorsal view of a preening immature White-plumed Honeyeater
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2016]

Frontal view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater looking sideways; note the absence of a black plume and the orange-yellow bill with its brownish tip
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, December 2011]

Frontal view of a hunched juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater looking sideways
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2012]

Close-up near-frontal view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, February 2016]

Near-frontal view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater studying the photographer
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2012]

Close-up near-lateral view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater
[January 2011]

Lateral/ventral view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater
[Deriah Aboriginal Area, NSW, March 2008]

Lateral/ventral view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater having a drink
[O'Brien's Creek, Narrabri Lake, NSW, January 2011]

Lateral view of an immature White-plumed Honeyeater that was fascinated by a piece of netting
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2012]

Lateral view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater being fed by its parents
[Narrabri Lake, NSW, November 2012]

Lateral/ventral view of two fledgling White-plumed Honeyeaters
[Near Narrabri, NSW, January 2017]

Ventral view of a fledgling White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Bowra Station, near Cunnamulla, QLD, September 2017]

Race "carteri"

ADULT

Sex unknown

Frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boolardy Station, Murchison, WA, August 2016]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Murchison River, near Ajana, WA, May 2018]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boolardy Station, Murchison, WA, August 2016]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater foraging in a casuarina tree (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boolardy Station, Murchison, WA, January 2014]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Frontal view of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater in a casuarina tree (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[Boolardy Station, Murchison, WA, January 2014]

Race "leilavalensis"

ADULT

Sex unknown

Near-lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Port Augusta, SA, June 2023]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Mount Isa, QLD, June 2021]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater feeding in a eucalypt tree (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Yulara, NT, March 2015]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Mount Isa, QLD, June 2021]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Mount Isa, QLD, July 2021]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Yulara, NT, March 2015]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater feeding in a eucalypt tree (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Yulara, NT, March 2015]

Lateral view of an upside-down White-plumed Honeyeater feeding in a eucalypt tree (photo courtesy of D. Wilczynska)
[Yulara, NT, March 2015]

Race "calconi"

ADULT

Sex unknown

Near-frontal/ventral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater; note the characteristic light-yellow head and otherwise pale plumage (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[The Granites Gold Mine, inland NT, June 2015]

Near-lateral/ventral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater (photo courtesy of J. Greaves)
[The Granites Gold Mine, inland NT, June 2015]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jun - Jan Eggs: 2 - 3 Incubation period: 14 days Fledging age: ca. 15 days

Given the right conditions, White-plumed Honeyeaters can breed any time of the year.

Nest

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

Type: Suspended basket Material: Root fibres, grass stems, webs Height above ground: 1 - 10 m

White-plumed Honeyeaters usually hide their nests in the outer foliage of live trees, hanging near the end of drooping branches.

White-plumed Honeyeater chicks in their nest, waiting to be fed
[Near Coonabarabran, NSW, November 2010]

White-plumed Honeyeater nest in a drooping branch of a eucalypt, less than 2 m above a dirt track
[Near Coonabarabran, NSW, October 2015]

White-plumed Honeyeater nest in a slightly more open spot, in between the as yet unripe fruit of a White Cedar
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, 2005]

Close-up near-lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater carrying rootlets for its nest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2012]

Eggs

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

Size: 20 x 15 mm Colour: Creamy, with light-brown speckles Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

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

White-plumed Honeyeaters are one of the species that like a good splash every day; however, they do not only use shallow bowls or puddles for taking their bath - instead they fly from perches onto the surface of standing water fluttering their wings, just touching the surface and getting half-emersed before taking off back again to the perch.

Distant lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater flying in for a bath
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, April 2006]

White-plumed Honeyeater making a splash; it is normal for birds of this species to fully immerse themselves before flying back to their perches soaking wet; they will repeat this up to about 10 times
[O'Brien's Creek, Narrabri Lake, NSW, April 2013]

Close-up lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater drying its plumage after taking a bath
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, March 2024]

Ventral view of three White-plumed Honeyeaters settling a dispute high up in the sky
[Near Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2014]

Food, Diet

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

Like many other honeyeaters, White-plumed Honeyeaters do not exclusively feed on nectar, but take insects too.

View onto the upperparts of a juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater feeding head-down on the nectar of a Callistemon
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, December 2005]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater with its prey, a relatively large flying insect
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2023]

Additional information

There is a separate page with a short description of psyllids and lerps.

Near-frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater taking a psyllid head down from the underside of a eucalypt leaf
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2013]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater taking psyllids and lerps from the underside of a eucalypt leaf
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater taking a psyllid with lerp head down from the underside of a eucalypt leaf
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2013]

Frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater lapping up water
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, December 2011]

Near-frontal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater scooping up water
[Pilliga scrub, NSW, December 2011]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater having a drink from a muddy waterhole (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Timmallallie NP, NSW, November 2018]

Near-dorsal view of a White-plumed Honeyeater drinking water from a lake
[Yarrie Lake, NSW, January 2024]

Lateral view of a White-plumed Honeyeater visiting a bird bath
[Eulah Creek, NSW, March 2023]

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.

wplume_20200516.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Contact call(?) © MD
wplume_20170802_2.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Contact calls(?) © MD
wplume_20190618.m4a penicillata
(SW QLD)
Territorial song (male display flight) © MD
wplume_20171209.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Territorial call (break of dawn) © MD
wplume_20200718_2.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (break of dawn) © MD
wplume_20211016.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (break of dawn) © MD
wplume_20200718.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Territorial calls (break of dawn) © MD
wplume_20180419.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Warning/alarm calls © MD
wplume_20200531.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Alarm calls (Peregrine Falcon) © MD
wplume_20190321.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Alarm calls (Grey Butcherbird) © MD
wplume_20200718_4.m4a penicillata
(W NSW)
Alarm calls (Laughing Kookaburra) © MD
wplume_20210320.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Aerial predator alarm calls © MD
wplume_20200609.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Alarm calls © MD
wplume_20210121.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Feeding calls © MD
wplume_20191027.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Feeding calls © MD
wplume_20180105.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
(Food competition) © MD
wplume_20200718_3.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Various (break of dawn) © MD
wplume_20221226.mp3 penicillata
(NW NSW)
? + alarm calls © MD
wplume_20221226_2.mp3 penicillata
(NW NSW)
? © MD
wplume_20220206.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
? © MD
 
wplume_jg_20160806.m4a carteri
(Ctl WA)
Contact call © JG
wplume_jg_20160806_2.m4a carteri
(Ctl WA)
Contact call Q&A © JG
wplume_jg_20160803.m4a carteri
(Ctl WA)
Upset/fighting © JG
wplume_jg_20160806_3.m4a carteri
(Ctl WA)
Feeding/begging calls © JG

We have also recorded the wing beat of a (wet) White-plumed Honeyeater, flying back to its perch after dipping into water.

wplume_20240322.m4a penicillata
(NW NSW)
Dipping into water & departure © MD

More White-plumed 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.