Animal Species:Eastern Spinebill

The Eastern Spinebill sometimes hovers like a hummingbird when feeding on the nectar from flowers. Most Australian honeyeaters feed on flowers from a perched position.

Eastern Spinebill at nest

SG Lane © SG Lane

Standard Common Name

Eastern Spinebill

Alternative Name/s

Spinebill or Victorian Spinebill; Slender-billed, Spinebill, Spine-billed or Tasmanian Honeyeater; Hummingbird or Tasmanian Hummingbird; Cobbler's Awl Bird or Awl-bird; Spiney

Identification

The Eastern Spinebill is most easily recognised by its very long, fine, down-curved beak and energetic flight, during which its white outer tail feathers are prominent. Males have a grey-black crown which extends in a black line on either site of the breast. The breast and throat are white, with a rufous patch in the centre of the throat. The wings and lower back are dark grey and the underparts and upper back are buff. Females are similar to males but have less distinct markings.

Size range

15 cm to 16 cm

Similar Species

Crescent Honeyeater, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Western Spinebill

Distribution

The Eastern Spinebill's range is generally east of the Great Dividing Range from Cooktown in Queensland to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia.

Habitat

The Eastern Spinebill prefers heath, forest and woodland.

Seasonality

Largely sedentary, but undergoes some local movements, especially away from higher elevations in autumn/winter.

Feeding and Diet

The Eastern Spinebill feeds on insects and nectar while perched or while hovering. Nectar is obtained from a wide array of flowers, including grevilleas, but its beak is particularly well-suited to extracting nectar from tubular flowers such as epacrids.

Communication

Short, repeated, high-pitched piping.

Mating and reproduction

The Eastern Spinebill's nest is a small cup of twigs, grass and bark, combined with hair and spider's web, built in a tree fork, generally between 1 and 5 metres from the ground. Only the female builds the nest and incubates the eggs, but both parents feed the young when they hatch.

Breeding season: August to January
Clutch size: 2
Incubation: 14 days
Time in nest: 14 days

Economic/social impacts

The Eastern Spinebill sometimes visits urban gardens that are well-vegetated, and will feed from both native and exotic flowers, including fuchsias.

Classification

Species:
tenuirostris
Genus:
Acanthorhynchus
Family:
Meliphagidae
Order:
Passeriformes
Class:
Aves
Phylum:
Chordata
Kingdom:
Animalia

What does this mean?

Further Reading

Higgins, P.J., J.M. Peter & W.K. Steele. (Eds) 2001. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 5: Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
 

Morcombe, M. 2000. Field guide to Australian Birds. Steve Parish Publishing.

Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.
 

References

Higgins, P.J., J.M. Peter & W.K. Steele. (Eds) 2001. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 5: Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.


Ondine Evans , Web Researcher/Editor
Last Updated:

Tags bird, honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Meliphagidae, vertebrates, identification, biby,