Family Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)

Least Concern

Helmeted Friarbird (Philemon buceroides)


French: Polochion casqué German: Helmlederkopf Spanish: Filemón de yelmo

Philedon buceroïdes


, 1838,

“New Holland”; error = Timor


See P. fuscicapillus. Taxonomy unsettled; limits of races uncertain, and molecular analyses needed, combined with examination of birds at equivalent stages of plumage wear, and analysis of vocalizations. On basis of plumage pigmentation and pattern of feathering on cheek and neck, two groups have been distinguished, sometimes treated as two species: those from Lesser Sundas (nominate and neglectus) and CN Australia (gordoni and ammitophilus) form one group, the rest the other. Forms gordoni and ammitophilus, however, differ from other two in group in their vestigial casques, and from each other in habitat, while race yorki has uniquely cylindrical casque and silver-edged crown feathers and may be closer to P. argenticeps#R; moreover, jobiensis has almost no casque at all; thus four, five or six groups arguable, several of them potentially full species. Other proposed races include sumbanus (Sumba) and plesseni (Lembata), both merged with neglectus; pallidiceps (Wetar), synonymized with nominate; brevipennis (Utakwa R, in S New Guinea), fretensis (Hall Sound, in SE New Guinea) and trivialis (Collingwood Bay, on N coast of SE New Guinea), all subsumed into novaeguineae; and confusus (N Queensland), treated as synonym of yorki. Ten subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. b. neglectus (Büttikofer, 1891) – Lombok, Sumbawa, Moyo, Sangeang, Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Besar, Adonara, Lembata, Pantar, Alor and Sumba, in Lesser Sundas.
  • P. b. buceroides (Swainson, 1838) – Tenggara Friarbird – Sawu, Roti, Semau, Timor, Atauro and Wetar, in E Lesser Sundas.
  • P. b. gordoni Mathews, 1912 – Melville Friarbird – N Northern Territory (Tiwi Is and coastal Arnhem Land), in N Australia.
  • P. b. ammitophilus Schodde et al., 1979 – Sandstone Friarbird – subcoastal sandstone plateaux of Arnhem Land (S to Katherine Gorge and Mataranka), in Northern Territory.
  • P. b. novaeguineae (S. Müller, 1842) – #RNew Guinea Friarbird – West Papuan Is (Waigeo, Kofiau, Salawati, Batanta, Misool), and NW & S New Guinea (Vogelkop E to Geelvink Bay and, in S, E to Milne Bay and, in SE, on N coast E from Kumusi R).
  • P. b. jobiensis (A. B. Meyer, 1874) – Yapen I (in Geelvink Bay) and N New Guinea from Mamberamo R E to S coastal Huon Gulf (around Salamaua).
  • P. b. aruensis (A. B. Meyer, 1884) – Aru Is.
  • P. b. subtuberosus E. J. O. Hartert, 1896 – Trobriand Is (Kaileuna, Kiriwina and Kitava) and D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago (Goodenough, Fergusson and Normanby), off SE New Guinea.
  • P. b. tagulanus Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1918 – Tagula I, in Louisiade Archipelago (off SE New Guinea).
  • P. b. yorki Mathews, 1912 – Hornbill Friarbird – islands in CW & S Torres Strait, and coastal NE Queensland (S to Weipa, on W Cape York Peninsula, and, in E, to Broad Sound, including some offshore islands), in NE Australia.
  • Descriptive notes

    32–36 cm; male average 120·6 g and female 107·1 g (nominate), male average 101·2 g and female 90·7 g (gordoni), male 100–131... read more


    Noisy, with range of rather harsh warbling calls. In New Guinea, heard all day, and often at night... read more


    Varies slightly among races in Australia. Race ammitophilus mainly on sandstone plateaux... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly nectar, fruit and seeds, also invertebrates (insects, including large mantids and insect larvae, and spiders); rarely, lizards (once... read more


    Most data from Australia, where breeding recorded in all months except May and Jul, mainly Sept–Feb; on Flores two peaks of laying,... read more


    Apparently resident throughout much of range, with some local movements (hence claims of nomadism... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. In Wallacea, generally widespread and common to abundant, including on Sumbawa, Moyo, Sangeang and Adonara; uncommon on Roti and Atauro. Generally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Higgins, P., Christidis, L. & Ford, H. (2020). Helmeted Friarbird (Philemon buceroides). 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 27 January 2020).