Wednesday, 30 November 2022
BirdLife Australia’s woodland birds team has been working alongside the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) and other local stakeholders to coordinate this significant conservation event.
All of the birds had been bred in captivity and were released into an endangered forest type on Wonnarua Country — on land owned by the Mindaribba LALC — to bolster the wild population. This site was carefully chosen for its rich breeding and feeding habitat, supporting key species of eucalypts and mistletoe.
The Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team has now released more than 400 birds into the wild in the Hunter Valley and north-eastern Victoria.
The move has been necessary because, despite our best efforts, the population of Regent Honeyeaters is still on an extinction trajectory, and captive breeding and release is one of most positive actions we can take for the species.
Each bird was fitted with a unique combination of coloured bands on its legs, and some were also fitted with tiny, state-of-the-art radio transmitters so that we can track their movements through the forest and surrounding district, as well as their survival over the coming months.
Mick Roderick, NSW Woodland Bird Program Manager at BirdLife Australia, said the radio tags allowed the honeyeaters to be monitored for up to 10 weeks after release.
“Monitoring will involve a small radio-tracking crew, following transmitter signals and recording individual locations of birds and their behaviour to help us understand survival, breeding attempts and dispersal patterns,” Mr Roderick said.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to have seen zoo-bred birds from last year’s release form mixed flocks with wild birds, and to know this fledgling flock is supported by so many agencies, groups and communities across Australia,” he continued.
“It also highlights the value of the Tomalpin Woodlands as one of the key sites underpinning the survival of Regent Honeyeaters as a species.”
At best, there are just a few hundred Regent Honeyeaters left in the wild — with the vast majority of their population confined to NSW. With their numbers so critically low, captive breeding and release could mean the difference between extinction and survival.
Since 2008, hundreds of zoo-bred Regent Honeyeaters have been released into the wild — a strategy that's working, with many of the birds not only surviving, but breeding.
Woodland bird populations are declining rapidly, with more than 40 species at risk of extinction. The Woodland Birds Program aims to stop and reverse this trend before it's too late.
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