Regent honeyeater – Anthochaera phrygia

It has been an extraordinary past fortnight for nature lovers in our local area with not just one but two critically endangered bird species visiting us. Hot on the heels of the Swift parrots are Regent honeyeaters at Highfields Falls.

There are only 200 to 300 Regent honeyeaters left in the world. Like Swift parrots the principle cause of their demise is habitat clearing, but it has effected them in a different way to the parrots. As smaller birds they rely on cover for protection – so apart from loss of food when large trees are cleared, when large trees are left but the undergrowth is cleared, Regent honeyeaters have been left exposed to more aggressive and predatory birds. Larger honeyeaters like Wattlebirds and Noisy friarbirds will chase them off their food. Gang members like Noisy miners and Bell miners will also chase them away. And to make matters worse Kookaburras, Butcherbirds and Currawongs will eat their chicks, if the nests aren’t sufficiently hidden in thicker vegetation.

There is a successful captive breeding programme going through Taronga Zoo, which has bolstered the numbers of Regent honeyeaters, but birds that are bred in captivity and released in the wild have a lot to learn about their migration, location of food trees and where to safely build nests. Unfortunately all of this is learnt the hard way, and although they breed readily the mortality rate in their chicks is high.

The birds visiting us are wild Regent honeyeaters as they have no leg bands, and are likely to be here for another week or two, before heading south again, and hopefully breeding in summer. This is just another testament to the wonderful environment we have here. For more on birds visit birdbites.com.au

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald on 1st of July, 2024