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Painted Honeyeater Grantiella picta

This species is classified as Vulnerable because declines, driven by habitat conversion, have not ceased and have continued to the point that the remaining global population is now small.

Taxonomic source(s)
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 1994. The taxonomy and species of birds of Australia and its territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, Melbourne.
Christidis, L.; Boles, W. E. 2008. Systematics and taxonomy of Australian birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Distribution and population
Grantiella picta is sparsely distributed from southern Victoria and south-eastern South Australia to far northern Queensland and eastern Northern Territory, Australia. The species is a vagrant to Western Australia, with the first published record of one in 2002 at West Kimberley (Schoenjahn 2003). The greatest concentrations, and almost all records of breeding, occur south of 26°S, on the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range between the Grampians, Victoria, and Roma, Queensland (Higgins et al. 2001, Barrett et al. 2003). After April, birds migrate to semi-arid regions, including north-eastern South Australia, central and western Queensland and central Northern Territory. The only recent records from South Australia are from Gluepot station in 2000 (J. O'Connor in litt. 2008), and the species has also declined in abundance in western New South Wales, central Victoria and probably from north-central Queensland. The New South Wales population is estimated to be fewer than 2,000 pairs. Numbers in Queensland may be similar, but are poorly known. Much smaller numbers nest in Victoria (Garnett et al. 2011).  The total population is unlikely to exceed 10,000 mature individuals (Garnett et al. 2011). The maximum documented count was 74 birds in 4 days of surveys in Culgoa floodplain, New South Wales (Oliver et al. 2003). During atlas surveys the reporting rate of this species has actually increased, but this is a result of more targeted searching for the species. The number of 10 minute grid cells from which it was reported has decreased from 164 in 1977-1981 to 142 in 1998-2003 and 90 in 2003-2008 (J. O'Connor in litt. 2008). In Queensland much suitable habitat was cleared historically (only 11% of the Acacia harpophylla/cambagei woodland remained in 1999), but annual rates of forest loss remained high at an estimated 5% in the late 1990s and early 2000s (Wilson et al. 2002). A similar trend is likely in New South Wales, but in Victoria forest has not been cleared as rapidly (P. Menkhorst in litt. 2008); therefore it is difficult to estimate an overall rate of decline.

Population justification
Garnett et al. (2011) estimate a declining population of between 2,500 and 10,000 mature individuals, roughly equivalent to 3,750-15,000 individuals in total.

Trend justification
Over consecutive atlases the number of 10 minute grid cells from which the species was recorded decreased from 164 in 1977-1981 to 142 in 1998-2003 and 90 in 2003-2008 (J. O'Connor in litt. 2008). Habitat was cleared at 5% per annum in the late 1990s and early 2000s (Wilson et al. 2002). Other parts of the range may have avoided such rapid land conversion but overall a moderately rapid decline is estimated.

The most specialised of Australia’s honeyeaters, being largely dependent on mistletoe fruits. The species lives in dry forests and woodlands dominated by Acacias. During breeding it requires berries from just two species, needle-leaved mistletoe Amyema cambagei and grey mistletoe A. quandang, which grow on nitrogen-fixing hosts such as Acacias and Casuarinas (D. Watson in litt. 2007, Barea 2008). It also feeds on nectar and arthropods (the main type of arthropods fed to nestlings have been observed to be orb-weaving spiders) (D. Watson in litt. 2007). Recent evidence suggests that mistletoe nectar is an important food resource in the breeding season or when the birds are moving through sub-optimal habitat (D. Watson in litt. 2007, Barea 2008), especially when fruit is scarce, and may influence habitat choice (Oliver et al. 2003). Thus, its breeding distribution is influenced by the presence of mistletoes and the seasonality of mistletoe fruiting; positive relationship has been observed between the abundance of mistletoes per tree and per unit area and the presence of this species (Oliver et al. 2003). It prefers woodland areas that contain a higher number of mature trees, as these host more mistletoes (Oliver et al. 2003). They also prefer wider blocks rather than strips of woodland, although they breed in quite narrow roadside strips if ample mistletoe fruit is available (D. Watson in litt. 2007). They have been recorded in Brigalow Acacia harpophylla and other woodlands on parts of the northern floodplains region of New South Wales, possibly using this area because the habitat there has been less cleared and fragmented than other parts of the species's range (Oliver et al. 2003).

Much of its breeding habitat has been cleared altogether or has been reduced to ageing, widely-spaced trees, particularly box-ironbark and boree woodlands. Its non-breeding habitat is still being cleared for agriculture and habitat remnants in both the breeding and non-breeding ranges continue to be degraded by grazing (Barea 2008). Despite legislation to stop the large-scale clearing of woodlands in New South Wales, 640,000 ha was approved for clearing in that state between 1998 and 2005, and although not all of this was cleared, an estimated 30,000 ha was illegally cleared in 2005 alone (H. Ford in litt. 2007). The regeneration of semi-arid woodlands dominated by Gidgee Acacia oswaldii and Rosewood Alectryon oleofolium is threatened by overgrazing by exotic herbivores in parts of western New South Wales (Oliver et al. 2003). The main woodlands which the species is associated with in New South Wales are dominated by Yarran Acasia homalophylla and Boree Acacia pendula, both of which are also frequently favoured by graziers (D. Watson in litt. 2007). The protection of these woodland types may have a greater impact than conservation efforts focused on temperate box-ironbark and box-gum woodlands at the southern edge of its range that are already degraded (Oliver et al. 2003).

Conservation Actions Underway
Legislation to prevent the large-scale clearing of woodlands in New South Wales was introduced in 1997 (H. Ford in litt. 2007). The ecology of the species has been well studied during a PhD thesis. Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out studies into site fidelity and patterns of movement, and acquire a better understanding of its ecology during the non-breeding season. Carry out long-term monitoring. Protect occupied woodland from clearing and monitor compliance biennially. Secure all sub-populations found on public land through conservation management, and use incentives to encourage private land owners to carry out beneficial management. Within the species's range manage woodlands on public or private land maintaining a diverse woodland community with mature trees and adequate mistletoe populations (Barea 2008). Control firewood collection from occupied areas and reduce grazing densities. Research the importance of Brigalow and other semi-arid woodlands, and protect as appropriate (Oliver et al. 2003).

Barea, L. P. 2008. Nest-site selection by the Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella picta), a mistletoe specialist. Emu 108(3): 213-220.

Barrett, G.; Silcocks, A.; Barry, S.; Cunningham, R.; Poulter, R. 2003. The new atlas of Australian birds. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Victoria, Australia.

Garnett, S. T.; Crowley, G. M. 2000. The action plan for Australian birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra.

Garnett, S.T., Szabo, J.K. and Dutson, G. 2011. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Higgins, P. J.; Peter, J. M.; Steele, W. K. 2001. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds: Tyrant-flycatchers to Chats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Oliver, D. L.; Chambers, M. A.; Parker, D. G. 2003. Habitat and resource selection of the Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella picta) on the northern floodplains region of New South Wales. Emu 103: 171-176.

Schoenjahn, J. 2003. First record of a Painted Honeyeater Grantiella picta for Western Australia. Australian Field Ornithology 20: 107-109.

Wilson, B. A.; Neldner, V. J.; Accad, A. 2002. The extent and status of remnant vegetation in Queensland and its implications for state wide management and legislation. Rangeland Journal 24(1): 6-36.

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Garnett, S., Taylor, J., Allinson, T, Symes, A.

Baker, B., Baria, L., Burbidge, A., Dutson, G., Ford, H., Garnett, S., Holmes, T., Loyn, R., Menkhorst, P., O'Connor, J., Watson, D., Woinarski, J.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Grantiella picta. Downloaded from on 13/07/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 13/07/2014.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Painted honeyeater (Grantiella picta) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Meliphagidae (Honeyeaters)
Species name author (Gould, 1838)
Population size 2500-10000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 374,000 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species