The scarlet myzomela

It takes something special to be distracted away from an Eastern Yellow Robin.

Once considered an absolute rarity in central Victoria, the Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta is now regularly observed.

This tiny jewel of a bird is Australia’s smallest honeyeater, more diminutive even than the Eastern Spinebill. Also commonly known as the Scarlet Myzomela, it is a species with a wide-ranging distribution along the east coast of Australia and east to New Caledonia. Commonly thought of as a sub-tropical bird it is usually found in association with flowering eucalypts, paperbarks or bottlebrushes, where it can be seen flitting in and around the canopy in search of nectar and insects.

In recent years it has been increasingly reported around Melbourne (where it was once a rare visitor) and further west as far as the Pyrenees Ranges. I’ve observed it a few times locally – each time alerted to its presence by its sweet metallic voice, described as … lively, cheerful, pretty, melodious and animated.

This one, a magnificent adult male, was heard yesterday high in the canopy in a damp gully dominated by White Box E.albens and Yellow Box E.melliodora to the north of Bell’s Lane Track. I revisited the site today and found the bird, this time in the mid-canopy, again singing nicely.The strikingly coloured male is reputed to sing more loudly than the female, which is largely light brown with just a hint of red wash around the head.

I’m reasonably confident I heard one at the same location about six weeks ago, though a single burst of song was not enough to mark it down as a certain observation. In recent times there have been a number of irruptions of Scarlet Honeyeaters (see here from The Age in 2017) … I’m starting to wonder though … maybe this beautiful bird is now a ‘quasi-resident’ of the box ironbark country.


Eastern Yellow Robin, Muckleford State Forest, 11th September 2022


Scarlet Honeyeater in White Box


Scarlet Honeyeater, 12th September 2022



5 responses to “The scarlet myzomela

  1. They are spectacular

  2. That’s amazing Geoff. What a beautiful bird. Keeping the exact location secret?

  3. The bird in your photo has a definite dark collar AND a red back. The collar is a feature of the Red Headed Myzomela (from right up in the North of Australia). Has your bird’s parent been up to no good in the tropics?

    • Hi Roy, thanks for your note.

      I’ve had a closer look at my images (and at the filed guides) and agree the collar is darkish (as in the Red-headed Honeyeater) but wonder if that’s a result of the wind ruffling the feathers. Otherwise it has all the characteristics of the Scarlet HE. I can’t find any references to hybridisation between the two. Cheers, Geoff

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