Unlike many species of honeyeaters which will forage at almost any type of blossom, the Painted Honeyeater specialises in foraging at the fruit of the semi-parasitic mistletoes that grow in trees and shrubs. These mistletoe fruits are often quite exquisite, being delicate and brightly coloured, and they hang in profusion among the pendulous mistletoe foliage. Painted Honeyeaters probe the fruit with their deep-pink beaks, and they find them so alluring that their regular seasonal movements coincide with the times when different species of mistletoes are flowering and fruiting.
The Painted Honeyeater is a medium-sized honeyeater with a relatively short beak and tail and is particularly found in association with mistletoe. Males are black above with bright yellow wing panels and upper tail and have white underparts with some black streaks on the flanks. The bill is pink. Females and young birds are duller and lack streaks. This species is sometimes called a Georgie, from the sound of its calls.
Their main call is a loud whistled ‘georgie-georgie…’. Other calls include a throaty ‘chur’ at the nest and plaintive alarm calls. Bird call recorded by: Fred Van Gessel
The Painted Honeyeater is endemic to mainland Australia, being found in Queensland and New South Wales west of the Great Dividing Range, through to northern Victoria. It is also found occasionally in the Northern Territory and may be a vagrant to South Australia. It is rare throughout its range.
Woodland, Forest, Urban
The Painted Honeyeater is found in dry open forests and woodlands, and is strongly associated with mistletoe. It may also be found along rivers, on plains with scattered trees and on farmland with remnant vegetation. It has been seen in urban parks and gardens where large eucalypts are available.
Male Painted Honeyeaters give display flights during breeding season, flying steeply upwards from a high perch then descending quickly to another tree, singing the whole time. These flights help the males advertise their territory, attract a mate and repel other males.
The Painted Honeyeater feeds mainly on the fruit of mistletoe, Amyema species, but will also feed on nectar and invertebrates, usually in eucalypts. This species feeds singly, in pairs or in small groups of up to six birds.
The Painted Honeyeater breed in loose colonies, forming pair bonds for the duration of the breeding season. In some areas, the same nest or tree may be re-used over several years. Breeding males vigorously defend a breeding territory from other males and occasionally other species such as the Mistletoebird. Both sexes build the thin, cup-shaped nest from grass and fine roots bound with spiderweb. The eggs and young are tended by both sexes, and fledglings may be fed for some time before they disperse. Two broods may be raised in the same breeding season. Eggs are sometimes taken by Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters.
Woodland, Forest, Urban