Peeking, posing and preening

New Holland Honeyeaters are comical characters that peek, pose and preen among the banksias.


New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)
1/2000, f8.0, ISO 1600


I have spent many hours watching New Holland Honeyeaters as they check banksia flowers for nectar. Often the first hint of a bird among the blossoms is the merest twitching of leaves, then I might see a little face peeking above the foliage.

New Holland Honeyeaters have long, slender bills and fascinating brush-tipped tongues which enable them to lap up sweet nectar from deep inside the banksias.


New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)
1/3200, f8.0, ISO 1600


Occasionally the honeyeaters will pose on top of a blossom, if they do a little shake when they land they transform from a slim bird into a fluffy round one. I’ve always liked the striking colours of New Holland Honeyeaters with their bold black and white feathers, bright yellow wing patches and sides of the tail, and especially their white ear tufts.

I’ve used practically the same settings for these three images, 1/2000 and 1/3200 of a second are very fast speeds to freeze the action. Using f8.0 gives a good depth of field while still blurring the background. In the image above the background was far enough away from the bird that it is completely blurred, which makes the honeyeater stand out nicely.

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)
1/3200, f8.0, ISO 1600


I enjoy taking images of birds that are preening – it means the birds are relaxed and not stressed by my presence. I’m sometimes worried when I see images of small birds staring belligerently at the camera; I wonder if they’ve been called in by someone playing a recording. There is much discussion about calling in, some people are comfortable using it while others are so concerned that it has been banned in some places due to evidence about the disruption it can cause.

When I’m entering images for competitions I have to give them unique names, if I enter the image above I think I’ll call it Honeyeater Semaphore.

Happy birding



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