On the lookout for rare regent honeyeater, swift parrot

The release of the Taronga Zoo-bred regent honeyeaters at Chiltern in April last year.
The release of the Taronga Zoo-bred regent honeyeaters at Chiltern in April last year.

VOLUNTEER spotters will head to the Chiltern-Mount Pilot National Park this weekend in search of two rare birds — the regent honeyeater and swift parrot.

That comes as it was revealed yesterday that a unique program to breed then release the regent honeyeater has secured more funding.

It is anticipated that will result in another release of captive-bred birds next year.

The Regent Honeyeater Captive Release Project has been a big success since its inception.

Thirty-seven of the birds bred at Taronga Zoo in Sydney were released in the park in April last year.

In the following seven months, more than 4600 observations were made of the birds.

The extra funding has come from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Victorian Environment Partnerships Program, North East Catchment Management Authority’s Caring For Our Country and other sources.

This weekend’s survey — co-ordinated by BirdLife Australia’s Woodland Birds for Biodiversity Project — is the first of two annual counts held across south-east Australia

The organisation said both species primarily fed on nectar from flowering eucalypt species such as mugga ironbark.

The swift parrot breeds in Tasmania and migrates to the mainland in early autumn each year, while the regent honeyeater is also found in woodland and forest habitats across south-east Australia.

“Chiltern’s Box-Ironbark forests usually provide vital habitat for both of these species during the autumn winter period,” BirdLife Australia’s threatened bird program manager Dean Ingwersen said.

“However, this year is somewhat of an off-year for ironbark flowering so this weekend we’ll have our work cut out to track down these striking birds.

“We’re particularly interested in relocating some of the uniquely colour-banded regents that were bred in captivity at Taronga Zoo and released into the Chiltern-Mount Pilot National Park in recent years, however, nothing beats the thrill of spotting a new wild bird of either species,” Mr Ingwersen said.

The survey is being done in conjunction with DEPI.

DEPI senior biodiversity officer Glen Johnson said the surveys had happened for 20 years.

More information is available at birdlife.org.au/projects/woodland-birds-for-biodiversity, email dean.ingwersen@birdlife.org.au or phone (03) 9347 0757.