20 January, 2016

Regent Honeyeater Update

Regent Honeyeater During the May 2015 survey period, a single wild bird was found amongst the captive released birds in Chiltern- Mount Pilot National Park in Victoria, and two birds from previous releases (from 2013 and 2008) were recorded later in the month. 

In NSW, two birds were recorded at a native plant nursery at Mount White on the NSW Central Coast. Other NSW sightings included a pair of birds at Lake Cathie (south of Port Macquarie), and four birds west of Genowlan Bridge in the Capertee Valley (a single bird was recorded there later in the month). 

There was one sighting in Queensland during May 2015; this was in a residential garden in the Ipswich suburb of Bundamba. 

In August nearly all of the action switched to the Capertee Valley, though sightings started at Lue Primary school with a single bird seen in the first week. Following this, over 30 birds were found across a number of sites in the Capertee Valley, including private property, the Capertee River near Genowlan Bridge, and in the Capertee National Park. At the time, the Yellow Box in the valley was flowering heavily and birds were mostly seen in pre-breeding pairs (two pairs were even found with nests). 

The birds at Lake Cathie on the coast were still present, and another pair was found in the Bundarra-Barraba area of NSW. Since then, an estimated 100 birds have been found in the Capertee Valley by multiple observers, though the lions share has been thanks to the dedication of Regent Honeyeater PhD student Ross Crates. Ross has been studying the breeding of the birds, and despite some heavy early losses/nest failures, at time of writing over 20 fledglings have been observed surviving in the wild. A great result! 

The Regent Honeyeater Captive Release Program has also been a huge success this year, with 77 birds released in the Box Ironbark forest of Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park in April 2015. Radiotransmitters were fitted to 39 birds (with more transmitters attached in early July) to monitor their post-release movements and survival. The post-release monitoring has provided encouraging results, with interesting movement data and high survival rates of released birds. The program coordination team and volunteers have identified and monitored the outcomes of 11 individual breeding pairs and 25 separate nest attempts, including the successful fledging of three juveniles (one of whom is going strong two months post-fledging, see photo below). 

Another interesting finding from the program includes the predation of Regent Honeyeater eggs by native marsupials (including both the Sugar Glider and the threatened Squirrel Glider), destruction of eggs by a female House Sparrow, and predation of the sibling of ‘Lucky’  by an Australian Magpie. This was all found thanks to the nest surveillance cameras set up and monitored by PhD student Gemma Taylor, who is evaluating the successes of the captive releases. This new finding might explain the unsuccessful nesting attempts by many of the recently released birds. This information is critical to help strengthen future releases, and we will now investigate potential mitigation strategies to prevent predators from accessing nesting birds in the future. 

No comments: