A new Regent record

Monday, 4 September 2023

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A new Regent record

Regent Honeyeater flies 350 kilometres in 3 months

The Critically Endangered Regent Honeyeater has seen its population dwindle in recent decades, and there are now as few as 250 to 300 surviving in the wild.

With such a small population, it is vital that we collect as much information about the species so that we understand what it needs to survive.

Part of the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan, supported by Saving Our Species, has been to release zoo-bred birds into the wild to bolster the population, and tracking these birds after they have been released has provided a great insight into their ecology, including their movements.

One zoo-bred bird, known as OG-Bling, was one of 50 regent honeyeaters released in the Lower Hunter Valley, on land owned by Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council, in New South Wales in November 2022.

OG-Bling was found and photographed in the same region a few months later, in March and April this year, in the Werakata State Conservation Area, near Kurri Kurri. He was socialising with eight other Regents, but the flock all left the region soon afterwards. They were not seen again until the end of July, when OG-Bling was photographed north of Coffs Harbour — 350 kilometres away!

“That actual bird was already a bit of a celebrity from when birds were being seen near Kurri Kurri,” said Mick Roderick, Regent Honeyeater Recovery Coordinator at BirdLife Australia. “Never before has a Regent Honeyeater been recorded flying so far in so short a time.”

“This bird has blown the record out of the water!”

Researchers have long known that Regent Honeyeaters move across the landscape, usually determined by the flowering of eucalypts, which provide the bulk of its food. However, such a long-haul flight in just three months is unprecedented (though not the longest recorded). The longest ever distance that a Regent Honeyeater is known to have moved is 470 kilometres, but this took place over a period of 2 years.

In case you’re wondering how OG-Bling got his name, all Regent Honeyeaters bred in the program are identified by a combination of 4 leg bands, and so OG-Bling was named after the orange and green coloured plastic bands on his left leg; like all of the Regents released in 2022, he has the ‘Bling’ of hot-pink and metal bands on his right leg. The metal band has a unique number.

“Citizen scientists are crucial to the recovery effort [of finding Regent Honeyeaters in the wild],” said Mick. “Once we lose the ability to track the released birds using radio transmitters, it’s just so difficult to find them. We can be out there seven days a week and not find birds. It’s like a needle in a haystack.”

If you see a Regent Honeyeaters anywhere in Australia, please let BirdLife Australia know by emailing woodlandbirds@birdlife.org.au or reaching out online.