Loved up regent honeyeaters make a home near Barraba

A breeding pair of regent honeyeaters has been sighted near Barraba for the first time since summer 2017.

Dr Stephen Debus and North West Local Land Services have been conducting seasonal regent honeyeater surveys around Barraba since 2016.

The breeding pair were sighted by Dr Debus during the spring survey in mid-September, on a travelling stock reserve.

“I noticed two birds off to the side of the survey that required closer attention to identify. On raising the binoculars, I saw they were regent honeyeaters – the first I’ve seen in two years and the only sightings in five years of quarterly surveys in that patch,” Dr Debus said.

“One was gathering nest material before they made a beeline out of sight. The next day I returned and found them attending a nest that was almost ready for eggs.”

The birds are two of an estimated 350 left in the wild, making them one of the most critically endangered animals in Australia and the world.

North West Local Land Services Senior Land Services Officer, Leonie Coleman said Birdlife Australia installed a predator proof collar on the tree that the nest is in to prevent possums and lace monitors from raiding the nest.

“Unfortunately, the nest will not be protected from attacks via the air from sugar gliders, kookaburras, pied currawongs, crows, noisy miners and other predatory birds,” said Leonie.

Dr Debus has since updated North West Local Land Services that the pair completed the nest and commenced incubating.

Sadly, shortly after this Dr Debus reported that specialised volunteers checking the nest found the nest had failed and the regent honeyeaters had gone.

“White-plumed honeyeaters have been recycling some of the Regents’ nest material for their own nest 10 metres away. There is no way of knowing what caused the failure, but there are the usual suspects in that patch such as predatory birds and sugar gliders,” Dr Debus said.

“The main problem for all these birds is habitat loss.

“People can help by protecting native bushland patches, especially mature trees, but also through regrowth and restoring and reconnecting bushland with key food trees and mistletoe, especially along watercourses”.

In the meantime, the area is being monitored by Dr Debus and other specialised volunteers with the hope that the Regent pair will find a better nest site near Barraba.

Local Land Services is working with Birdlife Australia and Australian National University on other projects including contributing to national monitoring data and reducing threats in regent honeyeater habitat.

“Healthy regent honeyeater habitat supports a large range of other woodland bird species many of which are in decline such as little lorikeet, turquoise parrot, speckled warbler and diamond firetail,” said Leonie.

North West Local Land Services has funding available to assist with regent honeyeater habitat enhancement and protection through projects which include fencing, improved grazing management, off-stream water points and revegetation.

This project is supported by North West Local Land Services, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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