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New hope for Regent Honeyeater

Re-introduced captive bred stock…

The release of Regent Honeyeater Xanthomyza Phrygia back into the wild provides new hope for the Endangered species. In total, twenty-seven birds, all fitted with radio transmitters, have been released into the Chiltern National Park (Australia). Community involvement is now playing a vital part in monitoring activities. A bird has already been re-sighted next to a wild bird - the first wild Regent Honeyeater in the park for 18 months!

The Regent Honeyeater, with its brilliant flashes of yellow feathers, was once seen in flocks hundreds-strong. “Recent surveys have suggested that the species has declined dramatically during the past five years,” warned David Geering (National Regent Honeyeater Recovery project Co-ordinator). “There could be as few as 1,000 birds left in the wild.”

Conservation partnerships between government agencies, Birds Australia (BirdLife in Australia), community groups and landholders, have sought to protect the Regent Honeyeater's habitat and ensure this species continues to exist in the wild. Efforts are now focused on protecting and restoring habitat at regularly-used sites.Chiltern National Park was selected as the release location. “The park provides a relatively large, intact, protected area of habitat for the species,” said Sarah Kelly Biodiversity Officer for the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). “The releases coincide with good Ironbark and White Box flowering which will provide a critical food source for the birds”, Ms Kelly said.

Post-release monitoring is now a key activity. “The birds have been fitted with small radio-transmitters and coloured leg bands to assist with the monitoring”, said Dean Ingwersen from Birds Australia's Threatened Bird Network. A monitoring team - including specially trained community volunteers - are following the birds. “Community involvement in the monitoring of released birds is vital to the project’s success”, commented Mr Ingwersen.

The birds have been recorded behaving naturally. “On many occasions honeyeaters fed on nectar within ten minutes of their release, with many birds even hawking insects soon after leaving the aviaries!” stated Mr Ingwersen.One of the earliest birds to be released was quickly re-sighted next to a wild bird - the first confirmed wild Regent Honeyeater in Chiltern National Park for 18 months. Several other wild Regent Honeyeaters have now been seen in association with the released birds. “This is a fantastic result and validates all of our hard work. We are now hoping to observe breeding - in terms of desired post-release outcomes it's the only thing missing!” Commented Mr Ingwersen.

The trial has been funded through the Federal Government’s Natural Heritage Trust program. The following are partners in the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Program: the Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW), DSE, Parks Victoria, Birds Australia Threatened Bird Network, NSW State Forest, the Threatened Species Network (WWF), LaTrobe University, University of New England and Taronga Conservation Society Australia and community volunteer and conservation groups.

4th July 2014