No sign of honeyeaters or swift parrots on the Central Coast

By AG Staff 17 August 2017
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More bad news for the honeyeater whose numbers remain at an abysmal 400.

A RECENT audit conducted across 56 locations on the Central Coast, NSW has failed to identify any regent honeyeaters (Anthochaera phrygia) or swift parrots (Lathamus discolor) leaving conservationists increasingly concerned for the two species survival.

Researchers have estimated that only 3500 swift parrots and just 400 honeyeaters remain in the wild.

Both species of bird, listed as critically endangered, have seemingly failed to effectively re-populate following the drought in the early 2000s. And their current numbers are threatened by land clearing and predation by sugar gliders.

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The swift parrot (Image Credit: Beau Meney)

Honeyeaters fighting for survival

Last month, researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) called for urgent action— specifically the release of captive-bred female honeyeaters to increase flock sizes as there are limited female mates in the wild.

A monitoring program observed the honeyeater in the wild and found several unpaired males, leading researchers to argue that captive bred honeyeaters should be released into the wild.

“When there are only a few birds trying to breed, we need to release captive-bred birds in areas where the wild birds are still present,” said Ross Crates, a PhD scholar from the Fenner School of Environment and Society.

“We frequently find unpaired males at these small breeding colonies. They sing and sing, but there are simply no spare females left for these poor males to breed with. It’s really sad to see.”

Ross explained that waiting until the last minute to save the species is not an option.

The research team, having located several single males early in the breeding season, explained that releasing the captive-bred females where the single wild males are singing will give them more opportunities to breed.

Ross added that the honeyeaters need to live in large flocks otherwise their song would be at risk.

“Reduced flock numbers mean we get a situation where the regent honeyeaters don’t know what they should be singing. They sometimes end up learning the songs of other species, which essentially means they may not be able to communicate with each other properly,” he said.