Honeyeaters feeding on melitose (sap) from Eucalypt trees

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Subject: Honeyeaters feeding on melitose (sap) from Eucalypt trees
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 14:20:23 +1000
Hi Birders
Anthony Katon on 13 July 2003 enquired as to whether the Brown-headed & Lewin's Honeyeater and an Eastern Spionebill seen feeding at a spot on a eucalypt tree where sap was flowing, were feeding on the sap or taking insects. My note is to confirm that it is most likely that the birds were feeding on sap from the tree, which would provide them with melitose sugars. It is  a known fact that Honeyeaters gain nourishment from a such a source, usually from sap flowing from smooth-barked eucalypts.
The late Pat Bourke  in an article "Meliphagaidae & Melitose" 1972 Aust Birds 6, 55-56, points out that this phenonema was first reported by George Caley who lived at Parramatta during most of his stay in the colony (1800-1810) in respect to Noisy Miners. Other honeyeaters to be observed feeding in this way include Bellminers, Lewin's, Yellow-faced, Yellow-tufted, White-eared, Brown-headed, White-naped and Regent Honeyeaters, Red Wattlebird and Yellow Wattledbird.
Many mammals of course also feed on the sap and are the most likely animal who cuts the notch into the bark to make the sap flow, particluarly Yellow-bellied, Sugar and Squirrel Gliders.
Alan Morris
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