Definitions

bloodbird

Scarlet Honeyeater

The Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela sanguinolenta), also known as Crimson Honeyeater, Scarlet Myzomela, Sanguineous Honeyeater or, colloquially, Bloodbird, is a small passerine bird of the Honeyeater family Meliphagidae native to the east coast of Australia, Indonesia and New Caledonia. The male is a striking bright red with black wings; the female is entirely brown.

Taxonomy

It was originally described as Certhia sanguinolenta by ornithologist John Latham in 1802. It is a member of the small genus Myzomela with two other red species, the Red-headed Honeyeater of northern Australia and the Cardinal Honeyeater of Vanuatu, as well as the Dusky Honeyeater. It belongs to the honeyeater family Meliphagidae. More recently, DNA analysis has shown honeyeaters to be related to the Pardalotidae, and the Petroicidae (Australian robins) in a large corvid superfamily; some researchers considering all these families in a broadly defined Corvidae.

Description

The male Scarlet Honeyeater is 10-11 cm (4 in) long with a bright red head, breast, back and rump, black tail and wings (wing feathers have white margins) with a white abdomen. The female is a pale brown with a whitish abdomen. Both have black bills and eyes. A variety of calls have been recorded, including a bell-like tinkling.

Males could be mistaken for the similar looking Red-headed Honeyeater in north Queensland where their ranges overlap, though the latter's red colouration is restricted to the head.

Distribution and habitat

The Scarlet Honeyeater is found from Melbourne in Victoria north through eastern coastal Australia east of the Great Dividing Range to Cape York. Outside Australia it occurs in Indonesia, where it is found on Sulawesi, the Maluku and Lesser Sunda Islands, and in New Caledonia. It is found in forested areas and is omnivorous, feeding on insects as well as nectar.

Reproduction

Breeding season is from winter through to summer, with one or two broods a year. The nest consists of a tiny cup of shredded bark with spider web as binding, high up in tree canopy, or even mistletoe. The small eggs are white with the larger end flecked with dull red-brown or grey-purple.

Aviculture

Scarlet Honeyeaters are rarely seen in aviculture. Keeping them successfully requires a large commitment in time and experience. Various State regulations govern the keeping of the species, for instance, in South Australia a Specialist License is required, while in New South Wales a Class 2 licence is required. N.S.W. applicants must have at least 2 years experience keeping birds, and be able to demonstrate that they can provide the appropriate care and housing for the species they wish to obtain.

The late Mr. Neil Tuthill, of Murray Bridge, was awarded an R.W. McKechnie Memorial Medal by The Avicultural Society of South Australia Inc., for the first breeding of the Scarlet Honey-eater in South Australia.

References

  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern

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