Family Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)

Least Concern

Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta)


French: Méliphage brunâtre German: Braunhonigfresser Spanish: Mielero pardo

Meliphaga indistincta

Vigors and Horsfield

, 1827,

King George Sound, south Western Australia


Race limbata has often been considered a separate species (as in HBW), but differs so little in morphology, plumage, voice and eggs that subspecific separation is probably more appropriate#R. Race ocularis intergrades with nominate through SE Gulf of Carpentaria drainage. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. i. limbata (S. Müller, 1843) – Bali, and Lesser Sundas on Lombok, Sumbawa, Sangeang, Komodo, Flores, Lembata, Alor, Sumba, Savu, Roti, Ndao, Ndoo, Semau and Timor (including Atauro I).
  • L. i. nupta (Stresemann, 1912) – Aru Is.
  • L. i. melvillensis (Mathews, 1912) – Tiwi Is (Bathurst I, Melville I), off N Northern Territory (N Australia).
  • L. i. indistincta (Vigors & Horsfield, 1827) – Western Australia (E to fringes of deserts and, in S, along coastal fringe S of Nullarbor Plain to about Eyre) and Northern Territory (S to C ranges) E to SE Gulf of Carpentaria and NW Queensland (Selwyn Range), and CN South Australia.
  • L. i. ocularis (Gould, 1838) – S New Guinea (S Trans-Fly region, including around Merauke, Bensbach R and L Daviambu), Saibai I (in N Torres Strait) and E Australia from Cape York Peninsula S to SW Queensland and CN & CE New South Wales (S to around Sydney).
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 12–16 cm, female 11·5–15 cm; male 7·9–14 g and female 7–12 g (nominate), male 10·1–14 g, female 8·7–10... read more


    Noisy, calls throughout year (apparent seasonal peaks, e.g. vocal activity in Western Australia... read more


    Throughout range occupies wide range of habitats, often near water, including watercourses, swamps... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly nectar; also small invertebrates, mainly insects, also spiders (Araneae). Nectar frequently of Banksia or Eucalyptus... read more


    In New Guinea birds said to be in breeding condition in Aug–Sept, but no other information. All following details refer to Australia... read more


    Resident in many areas; also widely described as nomadic or partly nomadic, but extent of any such... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common but generally scarce in New Guinea; on Fly R, sex ratio recorded during one survey strongly male-biased. Common to abundant in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Higgins, P., Christidis, L. & Ford, H. (2020). Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta). 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 17 January 2020).