COLUMN: The Dawn Caller

Dawn Callers: In the Fleurieu region, the two most common species of honeyeater are the New Holland honeyeater and the singing honeyeater.

Dawn Callers: In the Fleurieu region, the two most common species of honeyeater are the New Holland honeyeater and the singing honeyeater.

Honeyeaters are a well known feature of Australia's birding landscape. In the Fleurieu region, the two most common species of honeyeater are the New Holland honeyeater and the singing honeyeater.

I tend to see the New Holland honeyeater mainly in residential gardens and the singing honeyeater mainly in coastal scrub and woodland areas.

It is interesting to note that the singing honeyeater is the only species of honeyeater that I have observed on Granite Island.

The singing honeyeater is a bird of 16cms to 24cms with a black bill that curves slightly downwards.

It has a distinctive black mask that starts at the bill and continues through the eyes to the neck.

This black mask is underlined by a yellow streak.

There are small white ear-tufts. Its upperbody is grey-brown and its underbody is off-white to pale grey with dark grey-brown streaks. The wings and tail are brown with yellow edges.

The call of singing honeyeaters is loud.

They are one of the first species to call before dawn, often in pairs, with a song that has been described as 'pleasing, merry, melodious and musical'.

At other times of the day, however, their call is short, sharp and rather less tuneful.

Singing honeyeaters live in pairs and small flocks. During the breeding season of July to February, female birds build open cup-shaped nests in shrubs and incubate the eggs.

Nests may be parasitised by pallid cuckoos. Singing honeyeaters forage in low shrubs or on the ground. Their diet consists of insects, nectar, berries and seeds.

Singing honeyeaters are endemic to Australia. They are the most widespread species of honeyeater and can be found across the mainland.

Their habitat includes arid shrubland, woodland, coastal scrubland, suburban parks and gardens, farmyards and swamps.

Written by Ann Somerville-Charles (artist, composer and poet) of Victor Harbor.