Habitat: Among the large honeyeaters, the blue-faced honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis) is miner-like in its communal gatherings and feeding. It does sometimes take damaging bananas and pears and often mixes with other honeyeaters to hang in foliage, rifling nectar from flowering paperbarks and grevilleas, or to glean syrup from burnt sugar cane, but the bulk of its diet is insects.
Working in small, loose groups of 2–10, rarely more or less, Blue-faced Honeyeaters hop about branches and cling to trunks, probing and prying under bark for prey: click-and-leaf beetles and weevils and, less frequently, ants, chafers, shield bugs, and spiders. Often, they hawk out to catch insects in midair, particularly over water. Most feeding is done in the early morning and late afternoon. Communal groups seem to be close-knit.
During the day, they feed close to one another in the upper foliage and branches of trees, keeping in touch with soft chirps and following one another in direct, strong-flapping flights as they work from tree to tree. Like bell miners, they will glide on hunched wings and perch head-down, craning at an intruder. And if alarmed, they may bunch together, hopping about one another on branches, piping loudly. This honeyeater’s foraging routines are often broken by bathing and drinking, with the birds diving down and back to perch, little more than splashing the surface of pools.
During breeding, communal groups establish themselves in pockets of productive habitat in the eucalypt woodlands around northern and eastern Australia, usually along watercourses. Instead of building their own nest, breeding females often occupy deserted roosting nests of Grey-crowned Babblers. These are always readily available because of the babblers’ propensity to build many bulky nests that last well. All the Blue-faced Honeyeater does is rebuild the lining at the top; if its clutch is destroyed, it can shift to a new site, rebuild the lining, and lay again within seven days. After breeding, communes wander locally, taking advantage of flowering, and in the southeast, often shifting northwards during winter.
Identification:Both sexes are similar. The crown, hindneck, and line around the face are black. A broken white crescent around the nape. Back to wings and tail deep yellowish green; flight feathers with (northern races) or without a concealed white dollar, white, or cinnamon on the underside; underwing coverts black; tail feathers broadly tipped white except central pair. Grey-black gorget from the chin to the upper breast. A white line from the sides of the mouth down the sides of the neck to all plain white lower breast, belly, and undertail Eye cream white; eye skin turquoise; grading cobalt. The bill is black with a pale grey-blue base. Feet leaden-grey. The immature birds resemble adults. The head and nape are dark brown; the throat is duller grey. The eyes are brown-yellow, and the eye skin is green with a yellow tinge. The bill is dark gray with a lemon-yellow base. The feet are olive-grey.
Vocalizations: At dawn and dusk, individual birds sing sweet, plaintive notes from the top branchlets of roost trees. A blue-faced honeyeater is mewing chirps in contact. A miner-like alarm chattering, harsh mew, ky-owt, or teeu repeated often The song has strong, strident piping notes, mainly in the early morning.
Nesting and Breeding: The nesting and breeding occur in June–January, mostly August–November. Nest an untidy, deep, thick-walled cup of bark strips, grass, and rootlets, lined with finer bark fibers, rootlets, and grass stems, placed in the upright fork or broad branch of a tree, 3–18 meters above ground. It also uses a deserted nest of Grey-crowned Babbler, sometimes relining it, or may build on top of the nest. Occasionally uses old nests of miners or noisy friarbirds.
Eggs: The bird lays two, rarely three eggs; white to pale buff-pink with large purple-red and chestnut spots and blotches with underlying slate-grey marks; oval, about 32 x 22 mm.
Distribution: Blue-faced Honeyeater is found in eucalyptus, paperbark, and Pandanus woodland to the edge of rainforest and mangroves around north and east, from Kimberley, Western Australia, to the southeast of South Australia. Also southern New Guinea.
Races: There are three races.
Alternative Names:This bird is also known as Bananabird and Pandanasbird.
Size: Blue-faced Honeyeater measures 240–300 mm in length. The bird has a wingspan of 17.5 inches and weighs around 105 grams.
Family:This is a passerine bird that belongs to the honeyeater family, Meliphagidae.