Regent honeyeater population gets a boost

By Australian Geographic 28 October 2021
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Captive-bred regent honeyeaters have been released into NSW forests to boost wild populations.

In good news, 58 regent honeyeaters have been released into the wild as the species continues to battle extinction.

The regent honeyeater is one of Australia’s most endangered birds due to a major decline in their numbers as a result of habitat destruction for residential, industrial and agricultural projects. 

The species is now extinct in South Australia and rare in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, where their distribution has contracted severely and is patchy. Currently, It’s estimated there are 350 left in the wild. 

The captive-bred birds were released north of Sydney on Wonnarua Country within the Cessnock Woodlands.

The breeding program, managed by the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, BirdLife Australia and the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program, has been running since 2000 and has now released over 300 honeyeaters into the wild. 

Before this most recent release, the birds were banded. Some were also fitted with radio transmitters so their movements can be monitored, which will help –to assess the success of the release. 

Related: The road to saving Australia’s regent honeyeaters

Research published earlier this year found that regent honeyeaters were losing their ‘vocal culture’ due to critically low numbers in the wild, which impacts their ability to attract a mate and breed. Teaching young regent honeyeaters song is another focus of the breeding program.

Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council, the traditional owners of the Wonnarua Country, were closely involved with the release.

“What is special about this release site and the partnership with Mindaribba is that the work being done with the honeyeaters and their song culture runs almost parallel to the reawakening of Wonnarua language by respected Wonnarua Elder Aunty Sharon Edgar-Jones,” says Tara Dever, CEO of Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council.

“In helping the birds find their song and people using the Wonnarua language once more, the voice of the sacred country we are standing on can again be truly understood.”

Landholders in the Hunter region are encouraged to report sightings of the regent honeyeaters to BirdLife Australia on 1800 621 056 or [email protected]