Endangered regent honeyeater found far from home

By Jamie Salter

A nationally endangered regent honeyeater has surprised wildlife researchers after it was photographed in Gippsland, five years after it was released at Chiltern in north-east Victoria.

The captive-bred male bird known as Blue-Yellow Red-Metal, reflecting his unique colour leg bands, was spotted recently in Coongulla, north of Traralgon.

BirdLife Australia national regent honeyeater recovery co-ordinator Dean Ingwersen said the bird was one of 77 captive-reared birds released into the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park in April 2015, as part of the species recovery program.

“While regents are known to live in the wild for up to 11 years, this is the first time a captive-bred bird has been sighted five years after release,” Mr Ingwersen said.

“He was two years of age when released into the wild, which means he is now seven.

“This particular bird has not been seen since late 2015, so it appears he has been wandering the landscape before being re-discovered and photographed in Gippsland.”

Ms McArthur of Coongulla spotted the bird as an unusual species in her garden birdbath and took a series of pictures of her discovery.

Chiltern to Coongulla is about 190 km, as the regent honeyeater flies.

According to DELWP’s Glen Johnson, several regents released into the wild at Chiltern have made their way across the Great Dividing Range to Gippsland.

“Regent honeyeaters are known as ‘nomads’ because of their ability to fly large distances around south-eastern Australia in search of nectar from flowering trees and have been sighted hundreds of kilometres from their release site,” Mr Johnson said.

“It's remarkable for a bird which weighs around 40 grams.

“This sighting is a positive sign for the species, which has become threatened due to a loss of woodland and competition with noisy miners (another native honeyeater).

“Members of the public play such an important role reporting sighting observations and helping to piece together incredible stories of survival and movement.”

To report sightings, phone BirdLife Australia on 1800 621 056.