The Helmeted Honeyeater is a striking yellow, olive and black, medium-sized (200mm) honeyeater with a distinctive yellow crown and ear tufts that contrast boldly with black sides of the head. The forehead has a distinctive short crest, or helmet, of erect yellow feathers. Sexes are alike but are size dimorphic with males slightly heavier (32-36g) than females (28-32g).
Habitat and Distribution
Habitat is largely confined to dense riparian vegetation dominated by the Mountain Swamp Gum Eucalyptus camphora and an under storey dominated by tussock grasses or a rich community of sedges.
Once found across a 2000km² area of eastern Victoria, Australia. By 1989 this honeyeater was restricted to 4km of riparian forest along a single creek system in the 560ha Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.
The Helmeted Honeyeater is listed as Endangered, with less than 100 birds in the wild. In the late 1980’s the population was reduced to a single colony along a narrow remnant of riparian swamp forest. In 1989 a Recovery Program was initiated to manage and preserve the population and remaining habitat and supplement the wild population from a captive breeding colony. Juvenile birds bred in captivity at Healesville Sanctuary and Taronga Conservation Society are released at Yellingbo NCR and into a re-established population within their historical range at Bunyip SP.
Diet in the wild includes plant exudates such as nectar or manna along with lerps, spiders and invertebrates. Chicks are primarily raised on invertebrates.
In captivity the diet comprises artificial nectar (Wombaroo Lorikeet and Honeyeater mix), invertebrates such as mealworms, crickets and flies and slices of fruit for enrichment.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Helmeted Honeyeaters usually lay two eggs, but can range between one to three eggs in a clutch. The female builds a cup shaped nest of grass, leaves, small twigs and bark woven together with cobweb and decorated with spider egg sacs. This is lined with soft plant material, fur or feathers. Incubation is fourteen days and chicks fledge at twelve to fourteen days. Males will often breed in the breeding season following their birth and females will usually breed in their second year. Breeding can occur up to fourteen years and life expectancy is up to sixteen years. Helmeted Honeyeaters are generally monogamous and sedentary and some co-operative breeding does occur. They live in social groups known as neighborhoods were adult pairs occupying adjacent territories co-operatively defend the area. Breeding territories are established within these neighborhoods.
In 1971 the Helmeted Honeyeater was declared Victoria’s state avifaunal emblem and is the only bird endemic to the state.