Still on the Regent Honeyeater at Newstead, Vic!

Subject: Still on the Regent Honeyeater at Newstead, Vic!
From: Chris Tzaros <>
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 13:53:11 +1000
Very well said David Geering.  Now, I've discussed the following topic with you on previous occasions, but for the benefit of interested on-lookers, and to take advantage of this moment while we're all talking about Regent Honeyeaters, could you possibly (breifly) explain your thoughts on the separate Victorian/NSW populations of Regent Honeyeaters.  You mentioned in an earlier posting that you can notice a difference in the calls of Victorian and NSW birds, yet there is evidence, through sightings of banded birds from Chiltern, that Vic. birds travel to NSW (Capertee Valley).  Did the Chiltern bird then start talking the NSW lingo?  And, is there reason to believe that if there are state populations of Regents, that they occasionally 'mix', or is there just the one single population of the species occurring throughout Vic, NSW and SE Qld, and that the birds are highly nomadic in their pursuit of suitable foraging pastures, and thus could turn up anywhere?

In relation to what Lawrie wrote about the Newstead bird being lost, though within it's former range, it is within former range but really only on the edge of it's 'regular' former range.  Regent Honeyeaters in the western parts of central Victoria (west of Newstead, through the box-ironbark country around Maryborough, St Arnaud, Stawell etc.) have never really occurred as anything but vagrants.  However, as David Geering pointed out, they are regular still at places such as Chiltern and Killawarra in north-east Victoria.  They were once a common bird in the urban streets of Bendigo and Maryborough but the last sighting from Bendigo was around 1994 and Maryborough 1986.  The interesting thing that I draw the readers attention to here is that in these urban streetscapes, the birds were using planted Mugga Ironbark (E. sideroxylon), which in Victoria naturally occurs only in the north-east (around Chiltern and Killawarra).  Even at the time when Regents were common in Bendigo and Maryborough towns, they were seldom seen in the naturally occurring Red Ironbark (E. tricarpa) forests surrounding the towns, despite the presence of other high nectar producing eucalypts like Yellow Gum (E. leucoxylon).  The street plantings of Mugga have been slowly but surely disappearing from both Bendigo and Maryborough, and shamefully replaced by exotic trees.  This should be criminal offence in my opinion!  So in wrapping-up my rambling thoughts, this recent observation of the Newstead bird is even more exciting and significant because it is foraging in Red ironbark and Yellow Gum, not Mugga.  Is there a chance that more Regents have come to central Victoria along with the Newstead bird, considering that at the moment, the Red Ironbark and Yellow Gum forests of central Victoria are producing good blossom, and the north-east is relatively dry?  I think so, but as David says, one needs to look real hard to find them.  As an incentive to search, I offer a small prize to the person who next finds a Regent Honeyeater in central Victoria, and informs either David or myself!

Happy Regenting!

At 10:38 AM 6/12/03 +1000, you wrote:

Lawrie Conole wrote "Either way, in Newstead it is well and truly lost - though in former Regent Honeyeater haunts"

Now, I know what Lawrie meant so I won't take him to task on this but it offers an opportunity to provide some comments on the distribution and occurrence of Regent Honeyeater in Victoria, at least as we understand it.

Everyone would be aware that Regent Honeyeaters has suffered a dramatic decline in distribution in Victoria (as well as extinction in South Australia).  The majority of records now comes from the north-east of the state (primarily Chiltern) and across the border in the suburbs of Albury.  The number of records in recent years suggests that the decline of the Regent Honeyeater is still happening in Victoria with perhaps only 50-100 birds remaining (closer to 50 than 100??).

This, however, is only a small part of the story.  For a fair proportion of the year Regent Honeyeaters are not at Chiltern which begs the question of just where are they?  Now there's the $64000 question!  The Regent HE and Swift Parrot Recovery Teams hold two annual search weekends a year in May and August in an effort to get as many people out there looking in suitable habitat.  This invariable results in very few Regents being found in Victoria despite the massive effort.

Where do we think they are disappearing to?  Evidence in NSW suggests that they probably move around in small groups only forming larger flocks at favoured sites with high levels of resources.  Bear in mind that the population size in Victoria is probably working against the formation of anything but a small group.  Single Regent Honeyeaters or small groups can be very cryptic.  I've walked around areas where I knew there were Regent Honeyeaters and have had trouble locating them feeding quietly in the upper canopy.  This behaviour works against us locating them.

So where are they?  Sightings in Victoria point towards them moving around the edge of the high country - south to places like Alexandra and in some years further to the Melbourne suburbs.  This past twelve months or so we have even had two records from Gippsland!  Add to this the occasional record from a former stronghold - Lurg near Benalla and then records from late last year from Puckapunyal and we are getting further into territory once used regularly by Regent Honeyeaters.  From Puckapunyal to Newstead is not that great a stretch of the imagination particularly as there are fairly extensive Red Ironbark forests between the two.

So, there are probably Regent Honeyeaters out there (they have to be somewhere) but they are cryptic and in small numbers.  Nevertheless you have to look to find them. 


David Geering
Regent Honeyeater Recovery Coordinator
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 2111
Dubbo  NSW  2830
Ph: 02 6883 5335 or Freecall 1800 621 056
Fax: 02 6884 9382

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Chris Tzaros
Research and Conservation Officer
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