Regent Honeyeaters (Xanthomyza phrygia) were once seen as yellow and black flocks of over a hundred birds about 200 years ago from southeast Queensland to Central Victoria. However, today they are on the edge of extinction with an estimated population between 1000 and 1500 birds. The decline in numbers is partly due to the loss of habitat as well as the rise in the use of pesticides in Australia over the last 40 years. However there are other unknown factors contributing to the birds’ decline and research is being conducted to discover the real cause.
Common name: Regent Honeyeater, Embroidered Honeyeater, Wartyfaced Honeyeater, Flying Coachman or Turkeybird.
Scientific name: Xanthomyza phrygia
Features: Similar colourings in males and females but the male birds are larger. Black head and wings with broad yellow patches on the wings. Their bodies are black scalloped in cream-yellow. Black tail feathers, with bright yellow outer feathers.
Distribution: Eastern Australia along the Great Dividing Range from south-east Queensland to central Victoria.
Habitat: Eucalypt woodland and open forest of Box ironbark.
Diet: Nectar is the main food source but they also eat insects, manna, lerps and fruit.
How to attract them:
plant local native plants and shrubs to provide food and shelter
cut or eliminate the use of chemicals and pesticides in your garden
care for and protect local areas of bushland
Regent Honeyeater Recovery Project
David Geering is the Recovery Coordinator of the four year old program that involves many different groups including; Department of Natural Resources, NSW Parks and Wildlife, La Trobe University, Taronga Zoo and bird watching clubs. The aim of the project is to reverse the decline of the Regent Honeyeater population through research into the habits and reproductive biology of the birds and collecting data on the birds. The current mystery is where do the Regent Honeyeaters go when they’re not breeding? The birds breed between July and January and are found in their breeding grounds during that time. However they are not observed between January and July, leading to curiosity as to where they go during this period.
The Recovery Program also encourages land owners to retain old trees and plant more species of Eucalypts that Regent Honeyeaters frequent as part of a revegetation project. Preserving and increasing the habitat will increase the chances of the birds’ survival. Taronga Zoo also has a captive breeding population so that if the worst happens and the Regent Honeyeaters become extinct then the captive birds can be released back into the wild. These birds are not yet on display at Taronga but the zoo hopes to have them open to the public by the end of 1999. The birds are proving to be hardy in captivity and breed well.
If you live in Queensland, Victoria or New South Wales you can get involved in the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Project by contacting David Geering (Regent Honeyeater Recovery Coordinator), Flora & Fauna Branch, Department Natural Resources & Environment, PO Box 500, East Melbourne, VIC, 3002 or phone freecall: 1800 621 056.
No matter where you live in Australia you can be an active bird watcher and get involved with Birds Australia’s Bird Atlas Project. They have started to compile a bird atlas asking volunteers throughout Australia to watch out for a range of birds. The atlas is a list or map of the 800 or more species of birds throughout Australia, their habitats and their numbers. The project runs for four years and involves people noting which birds they observe, their name and location. Volunteers need only a pair of binoculars, a field guide and data supplied by the organisers of the project. The last project like this was run 20 years ago and had 3000 volunteers, while the current project has only 500 volunteers, organiser Geoff Barrett is hoping more people will volunteer. The aim of the new project is to compare the new bird atlas with the earlier data to see if any comparisons or conclusions can be drawn. For more information contact, The Atlas Project, Birds Australia, 415 Riversdale Road, Hawthorn East, VIC, 3123. Phone: (03) 9882 2622 or fax: (03) 9882 2677 or email: Atlas@raou.com.au