Family Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)

Least Concern

Varied Honeyeater (Gavicalis versicolor)


French: Méliphage versicolore German: Pirolhonigfresser Spanish: Mielero versicolor

Ptilotis versicolor


, 1843,

Cape York Peninsula, north-east Queensland, Australia


Previously considered conspecific with G. virescens; has sometimes been considered conspecific with G. fasciogularis, with which it apparently hybridizes to limited extent in S of range (near Townsville). Race sonoroides less yellow below (2), greyer on crown to mantle (1) and generally longer-tailed (ns); sample of songs (jumbled loud whistlings) too small to determine any constant differences. In New Guinea, proposed races intermedius (Samarai I, off SE coast) and vulgaris (Huon Peninsula) both currently included in sonoroides but might prove valid; further study required. Two subspecies currently recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. v. sonoroides (G. R. Gray, 1862) – West Papuan Is (Waigeo, Batanta, Salawati, Schildpad, Misool), patchily coastal N New Guinea from Vogelkop E (including cities of Lae and Madang) to Milne Bay, and associated offshore islands of Yapen (in Geelvink Bay), Fergusson (in D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago) and other islands off SE Peninsula (including Killerton, Samarai and Doini).
  • G. v. versicolor (Gould, 1843) – coastal S New Guinea from Merauke E (including some islands, e.g. Wallai I) at least to Port Moresby and probably farther (to Milne Bay); islands of Torres Strait (including Boigu, Saibai, Daru, Yam and Possession); and NE Australia S in coastal NE Queensland (including islands of Great Barrier Reef) to Townsville.
  • Descriptive notes

    19–24 cm; one male 35·5g and two females 32·5 g and 33 g (nominate). Nominate race has top of head and neck olive, finely streaked darker, with dark grey... read more


    In Australia song loud, powerful, resonant and melodious whistles. In New Guinea loud, mellow and... read more


    In Australia, mainly in mangroves fringing coasts, estuaries and islands; also in coastal shrubland... read more

    Food and feeding

    Nectar and insects; said to take some crustaceans from mud at low tide. Forages by gleaning and probing in outer foliage of mangroves and... read more


    Poorly known in New Guinea, with unspecified nesting in Jun, laying in Jan, nestlings Mar and Jul, and juvenile mid-Feb; apparently dry... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Generally common to very common. Abundant in some coastal towns in N New Guinea (e.g. Madang); abundant also on islands in Torres Strait, although... read more

    Recommended citation

    Higgins, P., Christidis, L. & Ford, H. (2020). Varied Honeyeater (Gavicalis versicolor). 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).