Territoriality in honeyeaters: Reviewing the concept and evaluating available information

Graham H. Pyke*, Michelle Christy, Richard E. Major

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


We define territorial behaviour as aggressive behaviour that occurs repeatedly in about the same location with associated submissive behaviour on the part of the individuals or groups to which the aggression is directed. Of a worldwide total of about 170 honeyeater species (Meliphagidae), 36 have been described as being territorial and we consider that 28 of these have been shown to satisfy our definition of territoriality. We discuss the consequences of territorial behaviour and the determination of the boundaries and area of territories. We also review the available information regarding territorial behaviour exhibited by the New Holland honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae), the most studied of all honeyeater species. We recommend that future descriptions of territorial behaviour attempt to determine the intensity of the behaviour, sharpness of the territory boundary, degree of exclusive use of the relevant resource, and the extent to which areas separate from the territory are used by the territory owner or owners. For territoriality to become a useful concept for honeyeaters, behaviour that loads to the label of 'territorial' must be fully documented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-317
Number of pages21
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


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