The critically endangered Regent Honeyeater mainly inhabits the temperate woodlands and open forests of the inland slopes of south-east Australia; areas where many mature trees provide high canopy cover for other birds, as well as habitat for native animals.
They are gifted impressionists. Individuals without a flock will associate with – and mimic – the calls of their close relatives, wattlebirds and friarbirds. No other species of bird is known to imitate close relatives in this way.
Once seen flying overhead in flocks of hundreds from Adelaide to the central coast of Queensland, the Regent Honeyeater is now the most threatened bird in NSW. Only three key breeding regions are known to remain, two of which are in New South Wales and the other is in Victoria.
Food and Family
Regent Honeyeaters are talented nest builders. The female builds open, cup-shaped nests from wool, grass, twigs and long thick strips of bark; she lays – and incubates – two or three reddish eggs that are speckled with magenta and purple-grey markings.
The loyal father helps feed their hungry hatchlings. Nestlings can be fed up 29 times per hour when both parents are on the hunt! Insects form a particularly important part of the diet of nestlings, which fledge – or grow wings – when they are just 16 days old.
Adult Regent Honeyeaters feed mainly on the nectar from a relatively small number of eucalypts like the Mugga Ironbark, Yellow Box, White Box and Swamp Mahogany. As generalist foragers, they dart from tree to tree to eat insects, fruits and lerp – small bugs that live on gum leaves.
Habitat and Ecology
The decline of the Regent Honeyeater is already affecting the greater ecosystem. This energetic, handsome bird helps through pollination to maintain healthy populations of our iconic eucalyptus trees – native forests which in turn supply food and habitat for many other native animals.
The plight of this species draws attention to the importance of protecting our beautiful natural forest landscapes. By preserving – and expanding – Australia’s wild places, we can save one of Australia’s most beautiful birds.
Given the vital role they play in maintaining our native forests, efforts to save the Regent Honeyeater will in turn help to conserve remnant communities of other threatened or near threatened animals, including the Swift Parrot, Superb Parrot, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Squirrel Glider and Painted Honeyeater.
How to Help
The most immediate threat to this species’ survival is the NSW Government’s plan to raise of Warragamba Dam wall by 17 metres. Leading ecologists have said this development will drown habitat critical to the survival of the Regent Honeyeater and ensure the bird’s extinction.
What’s worse, the NSW Government has already tried to cover up the existence of the bird in the area, embarrassed that they wish to destroy one of the most important breeding sites left for the species.
The survival of the Regent Honeyeater, our native forests and our precious wildlife depend on people like you who share our love of nature.