Regent Honeyeaters around Maryborough, Vic.

Subject: Regent Honeyeaters around Maryborough, Vic.
From: Chris Tzaros <>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 09:54:13 +1000

I'm glad that all this discussion on Regent Honeyeaters is interesting to some. Obviously some people who are contacting me have dug through their early notes finding western and central Victorian records! (I'll let you know about them David). This is a good thing - it's generating interest and increasing our awareness about a nationally endangered bird. These discussions provide a learning experience for us all, myself included, and Paul Peake raised a very interesting question yesterday in relation to Regents once being common (according to his source) in the natural box-ironbark forests around Maryborough. I had not heard of these reports from your Maryborough contact Paul (I'll contact you off-list to discuss more), but was aware that some folk regarded Regents as 'common' in that district in years gone by. Actually, in 1908, Chisholm wrote on the earlier than usual 'arrival' of Red Wattlebirds to the Maryborough district, and stated that usually the Warty-faced (Regent) Honeyeaters accompany them in "good numbers", but he had not yet seen any for the season at the time of writing. Other ornithologists and naturalists also travelled to Maryborough to see the "good numbers" of Regents so it must have been a reliable and regularly used spot for them, as was the Bendigo district. Don't know what I was thinking yesterday when I wrote what I did, but you're absolutely right Paul. Regents were once 'common' around Maryborough, and Bendigo, probably up until the early 1970's or so (so just before my time!). Since then, they appear to have declined substantially. Please read on though.....

Just browsing through a couple of pieces of literature I happen to have here at my fingertips, maybe this explains what I wrote and what I was thinking about. Just to quote something from the Birds of the Bendigo District book, compiled by the Bendigo FNC "Until the mid-1950's flocks were a common sight in Bendigo's urban flowering eucalypts, being at times one of the most abundant honeyeaters there. However, they were much rarer in the surrounding forests". In one of my sources re. the Victorian status of Regent HEs, (and this is where I wrote from yesterday), I quote "in the Yellow Gum habitat between north-central Victoria and the South Australian border, the Regent Honeyeater has never had better than vagrant status". Food for thought.

One last thing from me, in relation to my comments on the apparent 'preference' for Regents to use Mugga Ironbark in Victoria (something that is mentioned in the Regent HE Recovery Plan). I'm not necessarily a strong supporter of this wide-held theory, but thought I'd mention it yesterday for the heck of it! My thoughts are that Regents probably don't prefer Mugga per se, it's just that Mugga happens to occur in the north-east of Victoria, closer to the 'core' of the Regent HE population. Red Ironbark might well be just as tasty but being in central Victoria, is further away from the current population core. When Regents were more numerous in their glory days, then Red Ironbark forests were probably used more extensively, as were other habitats that barely even exist anymore (e.g. lowland woodlands dominated by Red Gum, Yellow Box, White Box etc. - growing on the most fertile flats and gully lines). Almost all of these woodlands were cleared to make way for agriculture. So, completing the circle and getting right back to the Regent HE presently at Newstead, it is using Red Ironbark and Yellow Gum - two species that don't occur in the current Victorian stronghold area for Regents (i.e. Chiltern district). But considering the dry and in some areas 'recovering' state of box-ironbark woodlands at the moment, I have no doubt that the birds are having to travel far and wide to locate food resources, and the forests around central Victoria certainly appear to be in better general flowering condition at the moment to those around Chiltern and Killawarra, where I'm told flowering is very sparse indeed.

Chat to you soon Paul, and to all others, remember my offer for the "Regent Prize"!

At 03:47 PM 6/12/03 +1000, you wrote:
Dear all, esp. Chris T,


This is just a bit of a request for some clarification re the former status
of Regent Honeyeaters around Maryborough, Vic.  Chris said [my editing to
show the source of my confusion]:

"Regent Honeyeaters ... around Maryborough ... have never really occurred
as anything but vagrants ... They were once a common bird in the urban
streets of Bendigo and Maryborough"

i.e. - was it "common" or "vagrants"?

A few years ago, I spoke to Lyall Courteney - Maryborough field nat and
resident of many decades - who told me of (as I recollect) thousands (or if
not hundreds - certainly not just tens) of Regents in the forests (not just
the street trees - I checked this with him) around Maryborough in most
years at or around the time of World War II.  Also (on the street trees
issue), there are (old and not so old) Atlas of Victorian Wildlife records
for about half of the thirty or so 5' grids centred on Bendigo - again
suggesting they were widespread beyond the street trees (as well as
breeding and other records from a hundred or so 5' grids in various parts
of Victoria outside the natural range of Eucalyptus sideroxylon).  I can
image that Regnet Honeyeaters in the street trees might be more conspicuous
and/or accessible to birders.

What's the story?

Hope you're all seeing more birds than me (shouldn't be tough).

Paul Peake.

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Chris Tzaros
Research and Conservation Officer
Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union)
National Office
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