Family Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)

Least Concern

Brown-backed Honeyeater (Ramsayornis modestus)


French: Méliphage modeste German: Sumpfhonigfresser Spanish: Mielero modesto

Glyciphila [sic] modesta

G. R. Gray

, 1858,

Aru Islands


In past, sometimes placed in Anthochaera. See R. fasciatus. Monotypic.


West Papuan Is (Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati); Aru Is; coastal S & SE New Guinea, also very locally in W Vogelkop (Sorong) and along N coast, with isolated records at Mamberamo R, Wewak and Madang; D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago (Goodenough I, Fergusson I); islands in N Torres Strait (including Boigu, Saibai, Daru and Yam); and NE Australia (Cape York Peninsula S to about Aurukun on W coast, and along E coast S to Bowen, with occasional records on islands off E coast).

Descriptive notes

12–13 cm; male 11–14 g, female 8·5 g. Rather drab, small and plump honeyeater with short tail. Plumage is mostly brown above and white below, with blackish... read more


Commonly heard. In New Guinea, song a series of short chipping notes interspersed with soft... read more


In Australia mainly riparian paperbark (Melaleuca) thickets or woodlands surrounding... read more

Food and feeding

Mainly nectar and insects. Forages in foliage, at flowers and on branches of trees, mostly paperbarks. Nectar taken by probing flowers;... read more


In Australia reported in all months except Jun, and eggs recorded mainly Sept–Oct; in New Guinea recorded in all months, mainly Aug... read more


Apparently partly resident and partly migratory in Australia, although described also as nomadic in... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Generally common in much of New Guinea, although oddly patchy distribution in NW & N parts, where recorded in W Vogelkop, with just isolated... read more

Recommended citation

Higgins, P., Christidis, L. & Ford, H. (2019). Brown-backed Honeyeater (Ramsayornis modestus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 9 December 2019).