Backyard Buddies
Eastern Spinebill

Photo: OEH

Eastern Spinebill

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Australia is home to two kinds of spinebill - the Eastern Spinebill and the Western Spinebill.

The best time of day to spot Eastern Spinebills is early morning. They feed early in the morning, particularly in the first 90 minutes after they wake up. The Eastern Spinebill is a honeyeater and feeds in the shrub-layer on nectar and on insects.

Their thin, down-curved bill is specially adapted for collecting nectar from native flowers. To attract and feed them, plant correas, eremophilas, bottlebrushes, kangaroo paws, and grevilleas. Spinebills will also take a drink of delicious, sugary nectar from introduced plants like fuchsias.

Favourite flowers of the Eastern Spinebill include the blooms of mistletoes, gum trees, common heath and grevilleas, but its beak is particularly well-suited to extracting nectar from tubular flowers such as epacrids.

Spinebills are fantastic pollinators of many native species, and they are very entertaining to watch as they hover like a hummingbird as they feed.

Eastern Spinebills breed mainly from October to January. The nest is a small cup of twigs, grass and bark, combined with hair and spider's web, built in a tree fork, generally between 1 and 5 metres from the ground.

You're likely to have the Eastern Spinebill as a visitor if you live between anywhere east of the Great Dividing Range and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. In February, watch out for hatchlings that emerging from nests built in tree forks.

The Eastern Spinebill's flight is very energetic and it produces a low whirring sound. It's also the perfect chance for you to see the pretty white outer tail feathers. They have a grey-black crown, with black lines running down its breast. Their chests are white with a reddish-brown throat patch.


For more Spinebill visitors to your garden, make sure your backyard is full of nectar-rich flowers. Check with a nursery for the best ones that will thrive in your area.

Did you know?

These sister species of the honeyeater were separated long ago. Scientists believe that the Eastern and Western Spinebills have a shared ancestor, but climate change drove them to separate to opposite sides of the continent.

The Western Spinebill keeps to the southwestern corner of Western Australia, north of Jurien Bay to Israelite Bay and inland to Lake Grace. Suburbs on the Darling scarp with flowering gardens are sure to attract the Western Spinebill, particularly when Banksias are in full bloom.

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”’s all connected, your backyard to the big backyard and everything in between – we can all do our bit to help out nature.“

John - National Parks Volunteer, SA

Photo: OEH