A new hope for threatened Regent Honeyeaters

Tuesday, 13 February 2024

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The Regent-eration: a new hope for threatened Regent Honeyeaters

An update on the NSW Regent Honeyeater Recovery Program.
To the right of the frame, an adult yellow and black Regent Honeyeater with coloured leg bands is perched on a flowering gum branch against a dappled grey, white and green background. The bird is looking towards the camera with its long tongue exposed.
RMPP feeding on blossom. Photo by Tim Paasila

At least 16 juvenile Regent Honeyeaters have fledged in the Capertee Valley in NSW, in the region’s most successful breeding event for this Critically Endangered species since 2017.

It’s been an exciting few months for the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team, which includes members of BirdLife Australia’s Woodland Bird Program.

In a bumper spring breeding event, the team recorded a flurry of activity in Capertee National Park on Wiradjuri Country – including over a dozen Regent nests and zoo-bred female birds paired with wild males.

We were thrilled to discover that one of these pairs raised and fledged two chicks – in the first recorded successful breeding attempt between a zoo-bred and wild Regent Honeyeater in NSW. The mother, a zoo-bred bird tagged ‘RMPP’, was released over 100 kilometres away in the Tomalpin Woodlands in 2021.

In the middle of the frame, an adult female black and gold Regent Honeyeater (right) with two coloured bands on each legs is perched on a thin branch and feeding her two grey and yellow chicks (left) against a blurred forest background.
RMPP feeding her fledglings. Photo by Tim Paasila

To monitor and improve their breeding success, BirdLife Australia’s Woodland Bird team worked alongside ecologists from the Australian National University to carefully monitor and protect Regent Honeyeaters in the park. This included undertaking pest control and installing plastic tree guards to protect chicks from nest predators such as Brush-tailed Possums and Sugar Gliders.

To make the most of the ideal nesting conditions in Capertee National Park, in early November, the team decided to supplement this breeding event by releasing 14 zoo-bred Regent Honeyeaters into the wild along the Capertee River.

Some zoo-bred birds were also fitted with tiny, state-of-the-art radio transmitters, to help us track the movements of this highly-mobile species. In December, a wild Regent Honeyeater was fitted with a transmitter for the first time in NSW in 21 years.

To the left of the frame, two grey and yellow fledgling Regent Honeyeaters are perched on the dead branches of a tree, facing to the left against an exposed white and green background. Behind them, to the top right of the frame, an out-of-focus adult black and gold Regent Honeyeater is perched on a higher branch, keeping watch.
An adult bird watches over the fledglings. Photo by Tim Paasila

With just a few hundred wild Regent Honeyeaters remaining and most of their population now limited to NSW, captive breeding and releases could mean the difference between extinction and survival for these remarkable birds. And with more male birds than females, zoo-bred females like RMPP are key to helping the Regent Honeyeater population recover.


The NSW Regent Honeyeater breeding program is a conservation partnership between the NSW Government’s Saving our Species Program, BirdLife Australia and Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

Monitoring, nest protection and guardianship of the Capertee breeding event is undertaken by BirdLife Australia and the Australian National University, in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and the Blue Mountains Branch of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.