Family Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)

Least Concern

Cardinal Myzomela (Myzomela cardinalis)


French: Myzomèle cardinal German: Kardinalhonigfresser Spanish: Mielero cardenal

Certhia Cardinalis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

Tanna Island, Vanuatu


Sometimes treated as conspecific with M. chermesina; formerly treated as conspecific with M. rubratra, but differs in morphology and vocalizations. Variation among subspecies sometimes pronounced, and several species may be involved; small black-breasted lifuensis and strangely outlying nigriventris merit taxonomic study, including vocalizations; songs of birds in Solomons, Vanuatu and Samoa all appear to vary, and “melodious white-eye-like” dawn song of sanfordi regarded as unique#R. Race pulcherrima apparently a recent invader of San Cristobal from Ugi and/or Three Sisters in early 20th century, perhaps hybridizing with M. tristrami in the past#R. Eight subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. c. sanfordi Mayr, 1931 – Rennell Cardinal Myzomela – Rennell, in S Solomon Is.
  • M. c. pulcherrima E. P. Ramsay, 1881 – Makira Cardinal Myzomela – Makira (San Cristobal), Ugi and Three Sisters Is, in SE Solomons.
  • M. c. sanctaecrucis F. Sarasin, 1913 – Santa Cruz Cardinal Myzomela – islands of Santa Cruz Group, including Nepani, Reef Is (Fenualoa, Lonlom), Duff Is, Nendo, Utupua, Vanikoro, and Torres Is (Hiu, Loh).
  • M. c. tucopiae Mayr, 1937 – Tucopia I (E of Vanikoro), in Santa Cruz Group.
  • M. c. tenuis Mayr, 1937 – Banks Is and N & C Vanuatu (S to Éfaté).
  • M. c. cardinalis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Vanuatu Cardinal Myzomela – S Vanuatu (Erromango, Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Anatom).
  • M. c. lifuensis E. L. Layard & E. L. C. Layard, 1878 – Loyalty Cardinal Myzomela – Loyalty Is (Ouvéa, Lifou, Maré).
  • M. c. nigriventris Peale, 1848 – Samoan Cardinal Myzomela – Samoa (Savaii, Upolu and offshore islets of Apolima, Manono and Nu’utele) and W American Samoa (Tutuila).
  • Descriptive notes

    9–12·5 cm; male 16–23 g and female 13 g (sanfordi), male 14–18 g and female 11·5–14 g (pulcherrima), male 11·5... read more


    Vocal, but not noisy, with variety of short, sharp syllables. Usual call a sharp high-pitched “... read more


    Primarily forest, but occupies wide range of habitats on all islands on which recorded, occurring... read more

    Food and feeding

    Nectar, also pollen, possibly other plant material; also small arthropods, including insects and spiders (Araneae). A small snail (... read more


    In Vanuatu season Sept to Dec/Jan, with some evidence of breeding Jun; in Samoa thought to breed in all months (nestlings found in Jul and... read more


    Resident, some local movement in search of blossom or other food sources. Locally, may be... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Restrictedrange species: present in Solomon Group EBA, in Rennell and Bellona EBA, in Vanuatu and Temotu EBA, in New Caledonia EBA, and in Samoan... read more

    Recommended citation

    Higgins, P., Christidis, L. & Ford, H. (2020). Cardinal Myzomela (Myzomela cardinalis). 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 16 February 2020).