Regents on the loose

Wednesday morning , 50 captive-bred Regent Honeyeaters were released into the box–ironbark forest of the Chiltern–Mt Pilot National Park in north-eastern Victoria to bolster the wild population. Another 50 will be released in a few days. It’s the biggest ever release of the species, and, with fewer than 400 of these Critically Endangered birds surviving in the wild, this latest release will provide a significant boost.

The birds were bred in captivity at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and now that the birds are free in the wild, their every movement will be monitored by the most intensive monitoring initiative seen for this species.

Each bird has been fitted with individual colour-bands on its legs to allow individual identification, while 50 of the birds are also wearing light-weight radio-transmitters which will allow researchers and a bevy of committed volunteers to follow their every movement.

By following the birds, we can monitor their activities—where they feed, what they feed on, who they breed with and where, and how successful they are—to gain an accurate understanding of what they need to survive.

Such monitoring of previous releases of captive Regent Honeyeaters has provided invaluable data.

“The success of the 150-person strong volunteer monitoring program in Victoria has documented terrific results, including successful breeding of captive-bred Regent Honeyeaters in the wild,” said Dean Ingwersen, BirdLife Australia’s Regent Honeyeater recovery coordinator.

“The wider community has also been fantastic, with numerous bush and even backyard Regent Honeyeater sightings reported to our national hotline,” he continued, saying that one call to the hotline revealed an unexpected result. “We’ve shown in recent years that our released birds can travel long distances, with one bird from the 2015 release seen late last year in South Gippsland, 270 kilometres from the release site.”

If you’ve seen a Regent Honeyeater with bands on its legs, please call the National Regent Honeyeater Hotline on 1800 621 056.

The Regent Honeyeater Recovery Program is a collaborative affair—the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team has representatives from BirdLife Australia, Taronga Zoo, governments (both Federal and State) and independent researchers and community groups.