Yellow-tinted and Grey-fronted Honeyeaters on Cape York Peninsula

Subject: Yellow-tinted and Grey-fronted Honeyeaters on Cape York Peninsula
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Sat, 24 Oct 2009 08:59:50 +1000
Tim and Chris,

Great report Tim - very helpful for future travellers to this fascinating area. Those honeyeaters would be Yellow-tinted. There are quite a number throughout middle Cape York Peninsula. Some populations are probably quite isolated, probably because of habitat preference. Southern range seems to be about the Musgrave-Lilyvale area though I have often tried to find them around Laura where there seems to be suitable habitat - without success. They range north at least to Piccaninny Plains and Weipa and again, I have tried to find them further north than that, again without success. They are mostly associated with the tall Eucalypt woodland - Darwin Stringybark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) & Bloodwood (Corymbia spp.) - which is common over much of the Peninsula. They spend nearly all of their time in the high canopy and can be quite difficult to observe. Their call is a bit different from the Yellow-tinted further south and inland - e.g. Georgetown.

Grey-fronted Honeyeater would be way out of range. The nearest I have seen them is down around Charters Towers-Torrens Creek which would be about 800 km S. There are records from the SE Gulf of Carpentaria though I have never seen them there. This would be about 400 km to the SW.

There are a couple of others in your list Tim which caught my eye. The Zitting Cisticola at Iron Range - could have been that species though I have never seen them in denser grassy habitat on the Peninsula. It is mostly a bird of the more saline areas in NE Qld - e.g. Couch Grass (Sporobolus sp.) rather than grassland, often just behind mangroves though it does occur away from those areas at times. It has been recorded from Nifold Plain in Lakefield NP and there is a population at Marina Plains, east of Musgrave though I have never checked this out. It only occurs in a small number of areas throughout the entire area. This race (laveryi) is difficult to distinguish from Golden-headed in non-breeding plumage - song is the best guide.

The other is Mangrove Gerygone - your record from the Alice River. There is a considerable break in range up the N Qld coast. It occurs fairly commonly to as far north as Townsville on the E coast but then drops off and is quite rare by about Ingham. From there north, right up and around the tip of Cape York it seems to be absent. It extends north on the west coast probably to as far as about Weipa - much of the western side of the Peninsula is difficult to access. I regularly assist Klaus Uhlenhut with his annual Bird Week at Bamaga at the Tip each year and we have never recorded it there - Large-billed is common though. In fact Large-billed is the common gerygone of the mangrove habitat north from about Ingham and right around the Peninsula.

There are a few older records of Mangrove Gerygone from the northern Wet Tropics and I chased all of these up when I was researching for my Birds of Queensland's Wet Tropics. There was nothing convincing about any of the records and it seemed highly likely that they were all juvenile Large-billed (which is easily confused with adult Mangrove). Certainly none of us who live here, at that stage, had any records of Mangrove on the E side of the Peninsula north of about Ingham. I am unaware of any sightings since then.

Anyway, thanks for reporting all of that - keeps some of us who regularly visit the Cape on our toes.

Best wishes,

Lloyd Nielsen
Mt Molloy  Nth Qld


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