Family Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)

Least Concern

Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris)


French: Méliphage à tête brune German: Braunkopf-Honigfresser Spanish: Mielero cabecipardo

Meliphaga brevirostris

Vigors and Horsfield

, 1827,

Sydney region (Parramatta), New South Wales, Australia


See M. validirostris. Races intergrade where they abut: pallidiceps intergrades with nominate in broad hybrid zone inland of Great Divide in Victoria, and with leucogenys in narrow zone in South Australia (extending S from about Port Augusta and S Flinders Ranges to Yorke Peninsula); proposed race augustus (Port Augusta) relates to latter intergrading population. In recent in-depth analysis#R, DNA differentiation among mainland taxa found to be shallow, suggesting that pallidiceps and wombeyi may be untenable. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. b. leucogenys Milligan, 1903 – S Western Australia (from Peron Peninsula E to W Nullarbor Plain); also S South Australia (Eyre Peninsula).
  • M. b. pallidiceps Mathews, 1912 – inland plains and W slopes of Great Divide in S Queensland, W & C New South Wales and N Victoria, extending W into S South Australia.
  • M. b. brevirostris (Vigors & Horsfield, 1827) – E slopes of Great Divide in New South Wales and both slopes in Victoria, extending W into SE South Australia.
  • M. b. magnirostris North, 1905 – Kangaroo I (South Australia).
  • M. b. wombeyi Schodde & Mason, 1999 – Otway Ranges and S Gippsland, in S Victoria.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5–14 cm; male 12–16 g and two females 14·1 and 17 g (nominate), male 11–14·2 g and female 12–16 g (pallidi­ceps... read more


    Noisy, calling often. Main call a repeated sharp, unmusical and moderately high-pitched “chip... read more


    Mostly dry, open Eucalyptus forests and woodlands, often with well-developed shrubby... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods (especially insects, also spiders), nectar and manna, lerp and honey­dew; known also to prey on eggs of other small birds.... read more


    Season mainly late winter to mid-summer, but breeding recorded in all months except May, most records of breeding and nearly all those of... read more


    Generally resident, with local movements within large home ranges in response to availability of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and locally common; rare in extreme SW Western Australia (including on Swan R Plain). No estimates of total population; recorded densities... read more

    Recommended citation

    Higgins, P., Christidis, L. & Ford, H. (2019). Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris). 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 15 December 2019).