Eastern Spinebill Click to enlarge image
Eastern Spinebill Image: Richard Major
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    tenuirostris
    Genus
    Acanthorhynchus
    Family
    Meliphagidae
    Order
    Passeriformes
    Class
    Aves
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    15 cm to 16 cm

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.

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.

Habitat

The Eastern Spinebill prefers heath, forest and woodland.

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.



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.

Breeding behaviours

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 impacts

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

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.

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.