Family Honeyeaters (Meliphagidae)

Least Concern

White-plumed Honeyeater (Ptilotula penicillata)


French: Méliphage serti German: Weißbürzel-Honigfresser Spanish: Mielero empenachado

Meliphaga penicillata


, 1837,

interior of New South Wales = Wagga Wagga area, Australia


Sister to P. ornata#R. Races intergrade where they meet. Proposed races centralia (C Australia) and interioris (Ward R, in SW Queensland) represent intergrading populations; other proposed races include geraldtonensis (Geraldton, in Western Australia) and ladasi (East Murchison, in Western Australia), both merged with carteri, and mellori (Templestowe, in Victoria), synonymized with nominate. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. calconi (Mathews, 1912) – extreme SW & S Kimberley (S Fitzroy R Basin) and adjacent Great Sandy Desert, in N Western Australia.
  • P. p. carteri (A. J. Campbell, 1899) – Pilbara and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia (from upper De Grey–Fortescue Rivers S to Geraldton and N Wheatbelt) E to E Gibson Desert and in Great Victoria Desert to NW South Australia.
  • P. p. leilavalensis (North, 1899) – NC Northern Territory (from c. 18° S) and NC Queensland S to South Australia (S to Gawler Ranges and N Flinders Ranges) and NW New South Wales (Barrier Range), but largely absent from Simpson Desert.
  • P. p. penicillata (Gould, 1837) – Greater Murray–Darling Basin from CE Queensland (W of Great Divide) S to gulfs of South Australia, extending E to Great Divide and locally to coastal and subcoastal S & SE Australia.
  • Descriptive notes

    13·5–18 cm; male 17–25 g and female 14–20 g (nominate), male 14·3–20·5 g and female 12–20 g (leilavalensis), male... read more


    Three main songs and a range of calls. Main song “chick-o-wee” or “chick-oo-wee... read more


    Dry, open sclerophyll forests and woodlands, typically riparian associations dominated by eucalypts... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly nectar, arthropods, and manna; also pollen and fruit and, very occasionally, seeds (most probably ingested with fruit); seen to take... read more


    Recorded in all months, most clutches (72%) in late Aug to Nov; usually two and sometimes three clutches in a year. Nest probably built by... read more


    Breeding adults resident, but some local movements, e.g. at Mt Isa (NW Queensland), small... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widespread and locally common; sparsely distributed in some areas, e.g. NW part of South Australia, and largely absent from Simpson Desert, in C... read more

    Recommended citation

    Higgins, P., Christidis, L. & Ford, H. (2020). White-plumed Honeyeater (Ptilotula penicillata). 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).