Re: Regent Honeyeaters in South Australia and western Victoria

Subject: Re: Regent Honeyeaters in South Australia and western Victoria
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 14:52:47 +1000

A couple of extracts from works well worth reading!

Franklin, D.C. & Menkhorst, P.W. 1988. A History of the Regent Honeyeater in South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist 30: 141- 145.

"In spite of occasional reports of abundance, the Regent Honeyeater appears to have been an intermittent Autumn, Winter and Spring visitor to south-eastern South Australia.  Breeding occurred only infrequently, between August and November.  Records are heavily concentrated in the vicinity of Adelaide and were very rare elsewhere in South Australia.  It is possible that numbers increased to a peak in the period 1910-1940 (-1950?),  thereafter, numbers rapidly dropped to a very low level and the Regent Honeyeater can now only be described as a vagrant to South Australia.

We believe that it may be a mistake to seek a local explanation for this decline, for it corresponds to a marked decline in parts of Victoria (unpublished data) where the bird was formerly much more abundant than it ever was in South Australia.  Furthermore, the most obvious change to the principal sites in South Australia - urbanization - is unlikely to have been a great disadvantage, as the Regent Honeyeater  has at times thrived in well-treed urban habitats (eg Bendigo and parts of Melbourne, Victoria), fearlessly feeding and nesting in gardens, parks and even beside busy roads.  Many of the South Australian sites remain well-treed in spite of (or because of) urbanisation."

Franklin, D.C., Menkhorst, P.W. & Robinson, J.L. 1989. Ecology of the Regent Honeyeater. Emu 89: 140- 154.
Definitely worth a read for those interested is this subject.
"Most of the observations were concentrated in three main areas: Adelaide, central and north-eastern Victoria and central-eastern New South Wales.  A 320km gap between observations of breeding separated the first two concentrations and includes an extensive belt of mallee and heath habitat with no observations at all.  A 160km gap in breeding observations separates the latter two concentrations.

Within these three areas, observations are often very patchily distributed and favoured areas were readily distinguished.  For example, within central and north-eastern Victoria there were concentrations in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, near Clunes, in north-central Victoria, in Killawarra State Forest, in the Chiltern area, and around Lake Eildon.  Observations elsewhere tended to be one-off locality records.  This patchiness is unlikely to simply reflect the uneven distribution of observers as there were so many areas within the overall distribution limits that had a high level of recording but in which no Regent Honeyeaters were found, especially during the RAOU Bird Atlas project."

"The flowering and nectar production of many eucalypt species are fairly predictable in seasonality but grossly variable in extent.  On the other hand, eucalypts growing on favourable sites or experiencing less competition flower more profusely and reliably than other species of the same species.  Red Ironbark (at the time of writing Mugga Ironbark E. sideroxylon had not been split from Red Ironbark E. tricarpa), Yellow Gum and Yellow Box in particular appear to respond to such conditions by producing nectar copiously and reliably.  Our experience with the Regent Honeyeater in the field suggests that the bird prefers these favourable pockets in bush environments.  Urban areas with remnant eucalypts provide similar productivity and predictable environments.

The distribution of adequately clumped favourable pockets may explain much of the patchiness of the Regent Honeyeaters' distribution.  Given the species mobility, this patchiness may imply true selection of optimal habitat.  However, the population decline, and hence even greater patchiness of the species, may result from the imposition of habitat restrictions.  Such a change from selection of optimal habitat to a restricted choice of habitat due to external factors may prove critical in interpreting current and future habitat data and hence in developing a conservation strategy."

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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