Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered as Anthochaera phrygia
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan - 1999-2003 (Menkhorst, P., N. Schedvin & D. Geering, 1999a) [Recovery Plan] as Xanthomyza phrygia.
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey Guidelines for Australia's Threatened Birds. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.2 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2010l) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument] as Xanthomyza phrygia.
 
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument] as Xanthomyza phrygia.
 
Amendment to the list of threatened species under section 178 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (72) (15/12/2008) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008k) [Legislative Instrument] as Anthochaera phrygia.
 
List of Migratory Species - Amendment to the list of migratory species under section 209 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (26/11/2013) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013af) [Legislative Instrument] as Xanthomyza phrygia.
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
ACT:Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia): Action Plan No. 20 (ACT Government, 1999g) [State Action Plan].
ACT:Woodlands for Wildlife: ACT Lowland Woodland Conservation Strategy (ACT Government, 2004) [State Action Plan].
ACT:Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia). An endangered species (ACT Government, 2005d) [Information Sheet].
NSW:New South Wales Murray Biodiversity Management Plan (Murray Catchment Management Authority (Murray CMA), 2012) [State Action Plan].
NSW:Regent Honeyeater Anthochaera phrygia - critically endangered species listing (NSW Scientific Committee (NSW SC), 2010) [Report].
QLD:Enhancing biodiversity hotspots along Western Queensland stock routes (Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (Qld DERM), 2009a) [Management Plan].
QLD:Regent honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia Conservation Management Profile (Queensland Environment Protection Agency (Qld EPA), 2008a) [State Species Management Plan].
State Listing Status
ACT: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1980 (Australian Capital Territory): 2013) as Xanthomyza phrygia
NSW: Listed as Critically Endangered (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013) as Anthochaera phrygia
QLD: Listed as Endangered (Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Queensland): July 2012) as Anthochaera phrygia
SA: Listed as Endangered (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011) as Xanthomyza phrygia
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): February 2014) as Xanthomyza phrygia
Non-statutory Listing Status
NGO: Listed as Critically Endangered (The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010)
Scientific name Anthochaera phrygia [82338]
Family Meliphagidae:Passeriformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Shaw, 1794)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Other names Xanthomyza phrygia [430]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Advice for proponents: Species listed as threatened (extinct in the wild, critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable) and/or migratory under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) are Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES). Proposed actions likely to have a significant impact on these MNES should be referred to the department for assessment and approval. Not all actions affecting matters protected by the EPBC Act will have a significant impact and require approval. Guidelines for determining if the impact of an action is likely to be significant are available from the department's website. Industry specific (wind farm, offshore seismic activity, agriculture, offshore aquaculture), Commonwealth marine bioregion and some species specific guidance on whether a referral is required is also available. These guidelines are designed to help you decide whether you need to refer your proposal to the department. If the question of significance is unclear, you can refer your proposal and the department will advise whether or not approval is needed within 20 business days. If unsure whether the action will have a significant impact, contact the department.

Scientific name: Anthochaera phrygia

Common name: Regent Honeyeater

Other common names: Embroidered Honeyeater, Mock-Regent Honeyeater, Warty-faced Honeyeater, Embroidered Bee-eater, Embroidered Merops, Mock Regent-bird, Flying Coachman, Turkeybird (Higgins et al. 2001).

The taxonomy of the Regent Honeyeater is conventionally accepted (Christidis & Boles 1994; Higgins et al. 2001; Paynter 1967; Sibley & Monroe 1990). The species was previously referred to as Xanthomyza phrygia; the change to Anthochaera phrygia is based on molecular evidence (Christidis & Boles 2008). Xanthomyza has been retained as a subgenus.

The Regent Honeyeater measures 20–24 cm in length, with a wingspan of approximately 30 cm, and a mass of 45 g in males and 39 g in females. It has a black head, with a patch of warty, dirty yellowish to pinkish skin around its dark red-brown eye, and a sturdy, decurved, black bill. The upperparts of its body are black, but heavily scalloped with pale yellow, and the wings each have three conspicuous panels that are predominantly darker yellow. The upper tail, when closed, is black with a yellow tip and edge. The breast and upper belly are black with very pale yellow to white chevrons (v-shaped pattern), and the lower belly is a pure pale yellow. In flight, the undersides of the wings appear dark brown, grading to blackish-brown at the distal ends, and with pale yellow or yellow fringing on the underwing-coverts. The undertail, when folded, is mostly yellow. The feet and legs are black. The plumage of juveniles is much duller and browner than that of adult birds, and the facial skin of juveniles is smooth and blue-grey in colour (Higgins et al. 2001). The immature plumage, which is attained until several months after fledging, is similar to the plumage of the adults, but it is possible to distinguish between adult and immature birds (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Higgins et al. 2001).

The Regent Honeyeater is usually seen singly, in twos, or in small groups. Large flocks are reported occasionally in some areas of its range (Franklin et al. 1989; Geering & Herman 1999; Higgins et al. 2001; Oliver 1998b; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). Groups vary in size throughout the year, and tend to be largest in late autumn and winter (Geering 2005 pers. comm.). The adults form pairs during the breeding season, and these nest either solitarily or in loose congregations or colonies (Franklin et al. 1989; Geering & French 1998; Ley & Williams 1994; Oliver et al. 1998).

General distribution

The Regent Honeyeater is endemic to south-east Australia, where it is widespread but with an extremely patchy distribution (Garnett et al. 2011). Its range extends from south-east Queensland to central Victoria (Menkhorst et al. 1999a). Most sightings originate from a few sites in north-east Victoria, along the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range in NSW, and the Central Coast in NSW (Birdlife International 2012). In 2011, breeding areas for the Regent Honeyeater were identified (Garnett et al. 2011):

  • key breeding areas
    • the Chiltern section of Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park (NP), north-east Victoria
    • Capertee Valley, central east NSW
    • Bundarra-Barraba region, northern NSW.
  • other breeding areas
    • Wangaratta-Mansfield region, Victoria
    • Warrumbungle NP, Pilliga forests and Mudgee-Wollar region, central north NSW
    • Hunter Valley and Clarence Valley, east NSW
    • south-east Queensland.

In some years, breeding also occurs in areas surrounding these key sites, for example in the Bathurst-Mudgee-Wollar-Upper Hunter Valley region around the Capertee Valley, and in the Lurg-Killawarra-Albury region around Chiltern. Breeding is recorded with some regularity in the ACT, but this tends to involve individual pairs; and there is evidence to suggest that a small breeding population may occur in the Gore-Karara area in south-east Queensland. There are also some scattered and infrequent records of breeding from elsewhere in the range (Geering 1997, unpub. data; Higgins et al. 2001; Menkhorst et al. 1999a; Oliver et al. 1998).

In 2007, Regent Honeyeaters were recorded breeding in open forest close to Kurri Kurri in the Lower Hunter region. There were also dependant young in the area that had only fledged a few weeks earlier, indicating that breeding had recently occurred in a second location. Nests of the Regent Honeyeater have also been recorded at Quorrobolong, north of the Watagan range in the Lower Hunter region, in lowland forest habitat. Low-lying forests and woodlands of the Hunter Valley are important habitat for the species being used as winter foraging habitat and potential breeding sites. The occurrence of Regent Honeyeaters in the Hunter Valley is often associated with the Box-Ironbark Woodlands of the Upper Hunter, the Spotted Gum-Ironbark Forests of the Lower Hunter and the Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) Forests of the coastal belt (Lindsey 2008 pers comm.).

Queensland

In Queensland, the Regent Honeyeater has been recorded from 15 sites, primarily south of a line between Chinchilla and the Sunshine Coast. There are several records on Bribie Island from between 1995–1998. There are several records from the Granite Belt between Warwick in the east, Gore in the west and Sundown NP in the south (Higgins et al. 2001; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). Regular records in the Gore-Karara area suggests a small breeding population may have been present in the mid 1990s (Geering 1997 unpub. data). A single record from the south-west of the state, near Eulo (Franklin et al. 1989), is likely to be erroneous (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

NSW

In NSW, most records are from the Great Dividing Range, mainly on the North-West Plains, North-West and South-West Slopes, Northern Tablelands, Central Tablelands and Southern Tablelands regions; and also the Central Coast and Hunter Valley regions. Records are concentrated around the Capertee Valley and the Bundarra-Barraba area, but the species has also been regularly recorded at Warrumbungle NP and around Canberra (Geering 1997 unpub. data; Geering & French 1998; Higgins et al. 2001; Ley & Williams 1994; Ley et al. 1996; Oliver et al. 1999; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). There are scattered records from the Pilliga; the area between West Wyalong and Dubbo; and the area between Jindelee State Forest (SF) and Albury (Higgins et al. 2001; Ley et al. 1996; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). There are also scattered records along the coast in the Northern Rivers and Mid-North Coast Regions; and in the Illawarra and South Coast Regions, from Nowra south to Moruya, where small numbers are recorded in most years (Geering 1997 unpub. data; Higgins et al. 2001; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

Victoria

In Victoria, the Regent Honeyeater is mostly recorded in areas north of the Great Dividing Range, especially in the North-East District, mainly around Chiltern (Killawarra SF), Bobinawarrah, Wangaratta, Reef Hills Park near Benalla, and at other scattered sites elsewhere ranging as far east as Corryong (Emison et al. 1987; Franklin et al. 1987; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001; Menkhorst 1993; Traill et al. 1996; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

There are scattered records from west of Benalla and south of the Great Dividing Range, in the upper and middle reaches of the Goulburn River catchment, ranging from Lake Eildon west to Yea, and occasionally in the area between Kialla, Katunga and Barmah SF, west to Saint Arnaud, Mount Cole and Ballarat (Franklin et al. 1987; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001; Menkhorst 1993; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). The species has also been reported at scattered sites in the south: in the central districts, they were recently recorded in the Wattle Glen and Glenburn areas, and are occasionally recorded in the middle reaches of the Yarra River, from Lilydale to Kew and Hawthorn, and also at other sites in the north-eastern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne. There are also reports from Ocean Grove and on the Mornington Peninsula. The species is also very occasionally reported in Gippsland (Emison et al. 1987; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001; Menkhorst 1993). The species is extinct in western Victoria (Franklin et al. 1987).

South Australia

The Regent Honeyeater is extinct in South Australia and was last recorded there in 1977 (Franklin & Menkhorst 1988). The species was recorded only three times in South Australia during the 1970s: at Comaum Forest in the south-east, Mount Lofty Ranges and Rostrevor in Adelaide (Blakers et al. 1984; Higgins et al. 2001). Other records include Naracoorte, in the far south-east, north to Oodla Wirra and Wilmington, and west to Kangaroo Island, at Kingscote and American River. Most records of the species in South Australia were obtained around Adelaide, and in the nearby Mount Lofty Ranges (Franklin & Menkhorst 1988; Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001). 

Extent of occurrence

The Regent Honeyeater's extent of occurrence is estimated at 600 000 km2 with a decreasing trend (Garnett et al. 2011). This estimate is considered to be of high reliability (Garnett et al. 2011). Occurrence declines began around the 1940s (Higgins et al. 2001) with contractions in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, and extinction in South Australia. The species is now largely absent from many areas where it was formerly found but, with the exception of a decline in the Riverina region, these local declines appear to have reduced the area of occupancy more than the extent of occurrence (Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001).

In Queensland, the Regent Honeyeater was formerly recorded north to around Byfield and Coomooboolaroo Station (near Duaringa), and a single vagrant was recorded at Mackay in 1963 (Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001). This represents a southward retreat of more than 200 km when compared to the species' current northern limit at Pomona (Birds Australia 2005a pers. comm.). In NSW, the reduction in the extent of occurrence has been less severe than in other states. The greatest contraction has occurred at the south-western limits of the species range. In Victoria, the Regent Honeyeater is now absent from the far south-west of the State, including Stawell, Ararat, Portland, Swan Hill and Kerang, and is now only a vagrant to southern and eastern Gippsland (Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001).

Area of occupancy

The Regent Honeyeater's area of occupancy is estimated at 300 km2 with a decreasing trend (Garnett et al. 2011). 

In NSW, the Regent Honeyeater has an area of occupancy of less than 200 km2 (NSW SC 2010) and is now largely absent from many areas where it was formerly recorded. This is most notably the Riverina and South-West Slopes, but also in many areas of the Central-West and North-West Slopes, and on the Central Coast around Sydney. There are also historical records around the intersection of the North-West Slopes, Northern Tablelands, Mid-North Coast and Hunter Regions, an area that is no longer inhabited (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001). Although distribution maps suggest that the decline in the area of occupancy in NSW has been less severe than in other states (see Geering 2005a), the severity of the decline is possibly being masked by the occasional occurrence of small numbers of birds (often individuals) at scattered locations. For example, the Regent Honeyeater regularly bred at locations such as Koorawatha and Cobbora, locations where they are now rarely reported. It is likely that similar declines have occurred across NSW (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

In Victoria, the Regent Honeyeater is now a rare or irregular visitor to several areas where it was once common, most notably around Bendigo, and in southern and eastern Gippsland (Franklin et al. 1987; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001; Menkhorst 1997). The species is now an occasional visitor to some suburbs east of Melbourne where they once regularly occurred and bred (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001). The Regent Honeyeater was also an infrequent visitor to the Geelong district and its surrounds early in the 20th century, but had not been reported there for some years, until seen at Ocean Grove in 2004 (Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001). Although occasional records persist in these locations, they are typically of single birds, and probably represent drought-induced dispersal caused by a reduction or failure in the flowering of food plants within the normal range of the species (Geering 2005a).

It is suspected that in Queensland, as in NSW, declines in the area of occupancy may have been masked by occasional records of small numbers of birds. However, there is little documentation available to support this assumption (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

Field surveys that have been conducted include:

  • A survey in north-central and north-east Victoria during 1986 (from late April to September), which indicated a Victorian population of approximately 200 birds, including 40–50 birds at Chiltern (Franklin et al. 1987).
  • A survey in NSW and Victoria between 17 April 1988 and 27 February 1990. Based on the results of this survey, which incorporated reports from bird-watchers, the total population of the Regent Honeyeater was estimated at between 500 and 1500 birds. The results of this survey did not contradict the earlier estimate of Franklin and colleagues (1987) of approximately 200 birds in Victoria (Webster & Menkhorst 1992).
  • A survey in the Bundarra-Barraba region of NSW from July 1994 to January 1997, which estimated the local population to be 51 birds in 1993, 101 birds in 1995, and 64 birds in 1996 (Oliver et al. 1998).
  • A survey in the Bundarra-Barraba region of NSW between January 1995 and January 1997, which estimated the local population to be 100 birds (Oliver et al. 1999).
  • A survey in the Capertee Valley, which located 42 birds in October 1994, at least 260 birds in September 1995, and at least 120 birds during September and October 1996 (Geering 1997; Geering & French 1998). Additional surveys at the same site located more than 400 birds during July and August 1997, and 55 birds in 1998 (Geering & Herman 1999).

In addition to the above surveys, there is ongoing monitoring of the Regent Honeyeater population in the Capertee Valley. This involves the survey of 13 sites during August, September and October, the months during which Regent Honeyeaters are most likely to be encountered. 'Search Days' are also conducted twice a year (in May and August), in which observers are encouraged to go out and attempt to locate the species. These days often result in sightings of only 30–50 birds, and from only half a dozen or so locations. This program encourages reporting of all sightings to recovery officers (the recovery program started in 1994) who maintain an extensive sightings database (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

Population estimate

In 2011, the Regent Honeyeater's population was estimated with medium reliability at 350–400 mature birds (Ingwersen and Menkhorst cited in Garnett et al. 2011). Previous estimates include 500–1500 (Webster & Menkhorst 1992), 800–2000 (Menkhorst et al. 1999a) and 1500 (Garnett & Crowley 2000). In 1997, there was an estimated 1000 birds in NSW, but in 2009 there was an estimated maximum of 40 (Garnett et al. 2011). In north-east Victoria there are probably fewer than ten pairs and in the Bundarra-Barraba region of NSW, there were about 30 birds in 2007–2010 (NSW SC 2010).

Movement between subpopulations

Though minor behavioural differences exist between birds in the three main areas inhabited by the species (i.e. the Bundarra-Barraba area and the Capertee Valley in NSW, and north-eastern Victoria), the direction and extent of movements (including evidence of movement between breeding sites) and a lack of discernable genetic differences between sites suggest that the Regent Honeyeater occurs as a single, contiguous population (Norman & Christidis 1998; Garnett & Crowley 2000). However, the movement of birds between breeding areas is likely to occur at a low frequency, and the possibility that there are distinct subpopulations cannot be ruled out (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

Population trends

The Regent Honeyeater population is decreasing (Garnett et al. 2011) based on historical declines throughout much of the species' range, a range contraction, a decline in reporting frequency and the reduced size and occurrence of flocks. In the 1800s, the Regent Honeyeater was recorded in 'great' or 'immense' numbers, or occasionally in 'thousands' or 'very large flocks' during influxes (Higgins et al. 2001). There are few records of large flocks in recent times. For example, of 235 records from 1977 to 1985, 66% were of 1–2 birds, 82% were of four birds or less, 9% were of 10 birds or more, and the largest flock recorded contained 37 birds (Franklin et al. 1989). Of a combined 299 sightings from Queensland, NSW, the ACT and Victoria between 17 April 1988 and 27 February 1990, 61% were of 1–2 birds, 88% were of four birds or less, 3% were of 10 birds or more, and the largest flock recorded contained 23 birds (Webster & Menkhorst 1992). However, a flock of 151 was recorded at Howes Valley, NSW, in May 1994 (Oliver 1998b), a flock of 150 birds was recorded in winter 1997, and another of 150 birds or more in November 2000 at Glen Davis in NSW (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering & Herman 1999). A roosting site in the Capertee Valley was also occupied by 150 birds or more from May to August 1997 (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

In Victoria, the Regent Honeyeater is much less common than it was previously at many of the locations where the species may still be found. They are now only recorded sporadically around Bendigo (where formerly numerous), in Gippsland (where formerly a regular visitor), and in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne (where formerly regular and sometimes plentiful) (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001; Traill et al. 1996). Population size also appears to be declining at Chiltern in Victoria, one of the three main breeding locations (Geering 2005 pers. comm.). The numbers recorded at Chiltern have decreased in parallel with the national decline in population size (Traill et al. 1996), to the point where less than ten birds were recorded annually from 2000 to 2004 (Collins 2005).

In NSW, the species has been recorded sporadically in the area from Newport and Narrabeen to Belmore and Canterbury (where formerly plentiful) around Sydney, and in the ACT (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Geering 2005a; Higgins et al. 2001; Traill et al. 1996). Reporting rates have declined at Warrumbungle NP and in Killawarra SF (Geering 2005 pers. comm.). Observations suggest that populations in the other main breeding areas, the Capertee Valley and the Bundarra-Barraba area in NSW, have declined from 140 birds in 2005 to 40 birds in 2006 and 2007 (NSW SC 2010).

Despite the amount of survey effort that has been invested in the monitoring of Regent Honeyeater populations, a recent assessment has shown the current monitoring program to be incapable of detecting small to moderate changes (20–60%) in population size over a reasonable period of time and, subsequently, of determining trends in population size with any degree of precision. Furthermore, due to the population demographics of the species, this situation cannot be rectified (Clarke et al. 2003).

Population fluctuations

Local numbers can fluctuate. For example, at Capertee Valley in NSW, the local population consisted of at least 260 birds in September 1995, at least 120 birds in 1996, more than 400 birds during winter in 1997, and 55 birds in 1998 (Geering 1997; Geering & French 1998; Geering & Herman 1999); and in the Bundarra-Barraba area in NSW, 101 birds were recorded in 1995, and 64 in 1996 (Oliver et al. 1998). The causes of such fluctuations are complex, and not fully understood. Some fluctuations are due to the availability of resources. For example, if flowering of White Box (Eucalyptus albens) is extensive and extends into spring at sites outside of the Capertee Valley, then many birds will remain outside of the valley to breed (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

Genuine fluctuations in population size could occur as a result of drought. During drought conditions from 2001 to 2003, few birds were recorded in the Capertee Valley and little (if any) breeding occurred throughout the range. The lack of breeding over this period is thought to have led to a decrease in population size (Geering 2005 pers. comm.). In addition, there are many historical records of population influxes, and a few reports of irruptions (Franklin & Menkhorst 1988; Higgins et al. 2001).

In NSW, the Regent Honeyeater has been recorded in Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve (NR), Pilliga NR, Cocklebay NR, The Charcoal Tank NR, Yengo NP, Warrumbungle NP, Wollemi NP, Scheyville NP, Goulburn River NP, Broadwater NP, Bundjalung NP, Yuraygir NP, Nattai NP, Brisbane Waters NP, Ingalba NP, Hat Head NP, Royal NP, Seven Mile Beach NP, Canberra Nature Park and Castlereagh NR (NSW NPWS 1999).

In Victoria, the Regent Honeyeater has been recorded in Barmah State Park (SP), Burrow-Pine Mountain NP, Cape Conran Coastal Park, Cheetham Wetlands, Chiltern Box-Ironbark NP, Churchill NP, Croajingalong NP, Kamarooka SP, Kooyoora SP, Lake Eildon NP, Little Desert NP, Lysterfield NP, Mitchell River NP, Moondarra SP, Mount Buangor SP, Mount Granya SP, Plenty Gorge Parklands, Reef Hills Park, Snowy River NP, Sugarloaf Reservoir Park, The Lakes NP, Tyers Park, Warby Range SP, Warrandyte SP, Yarra Bend Park, Reef Hills Park, Warby Range SP, Mount Granya SP and Yarra Valley Parklands (Parks Victoria 2000). At Chiltern Box-Ironbark NP, nesting areas of the Regent Honeyeater are managed as Special Protection Areas. The extent of these areas is subject to ongoing review, and care is taken to minimise the disturbance to these areas, including through the prohibition of mineral exploration in these areas (Parks Victoria 1998).

In Queensland, the Regent Honeyeater is an occasional visitor to Sundown NP (Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

Feeding habitat

Regent Honeyeaters mostly occur in dry Box-Ironbark eucalypt woodland and dry sclerophyll forest associations in areas of low to moderate relief, wherein they prefer moister, more fertile sites available, for example along creek flats, or in broad river valleys and foothills. In NSW, riparian forests containing River Oak (Casuarina cunninghamiana), and with Needle-leaf Mistletoe (Amyema cambagei), are also important for feeding and breeding. At times of food shortage (e.g. when flowering fails in preferred habitats), Regent Honeyeaters also use other woodland types and wet lowland coastal forest dominated by Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) or Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) (Franklin et al. 1989; Geering & French 1998; Ley & Williams 1992; Oliver et al. 1999; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

Regent Honeyeaters typically are associated with plant species that reliably produce copious amounts of nectar, such as Mugga Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon), Yellow Box (E. melliodora), White Box and Yellow Gum (E. leucoxylon), but also in association with woodland species such as Grey Box (E. microcarpa), Red Box (E. polyanthemos), Blakely's Red Gum (E. blakelyi), River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis), Silver-leaved Ironbark (E. melanophloia), Narrow-leaved Ironbark (E. crebra), Caley's Ironbark (E. caleyi) and Rough-barked Apple (Angophora floribunda) (Higgins et al. 2001; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). They sometimes use native pine Callitris woodlands, usually where mixed with eucalypts. They regularly occur in remnant trees or patches of woodland in farmland, partly cleared agricultural land and riverine forest of River Sheoak, usually infested by mistletoe, and sometimes mixed with eucalypts (Franklin et al. 1989; Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering 1997; Geering & French 1998; Ley et al. 1996; Ley & Williams 1994; Oliver et al. 1999).

Regent Honeyeaters sometimes occur in coastal forest, especially in stands dominated by Swamp Mahogany, Spotted Gum, Southern Mahogany (E. botryoides) and in those on sandstone ranges with Banksia spp. in the understorey (Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001; Menkhorst 1997a). It is possible that these habitats are used predominantly as a refuge when the preferred box-ironbark habitats are affected by drought (Menkhorst et al. 1999a). They occasionally occur in bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) shrubland, including riverbed shrubbery dominated by bottlebrush and tea-tree (Leptospermum spp.) (Franklin et al. 1989; Geering 2005 pers. comm.). Very rarely they occur in coastal waterside forest dominated by Manna Gum (E. viminalis); coastal wet sclerophyll forest on the edge of rainforest; low open forest with dry heathy understorey on coastal sandstone ridges; coastal scrub or heathland dominated by Banksia spp. and tea tree (Leptospermum spp.); and swamp thickets of paperbark (Melaleuca spp.) (Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001).

Nesting habitat

Regent Honeyeaters usually nest in the canopy of forests or woodlands, and in the crowns of tall trees, mostly eucalypts. Studies in the Bundarra-Barraba region indicate that birds actively select the tallest trees available to nest in (Oliver et al. 1998). Nests in riparian sites are mostly built in rough-barked trees. Nests in woodland sites vary according to the availability of rough-barked trees: in woodlands dominated by rough-barked species (e.g. ironbarks), nests are placed in rough-barked trees; in woodlands where rough-barked trees are scarce (e.g. those dominated by White Box), nests are placed mostly in smooth-barked species (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering 1997; Geering & French 1998; Geering & Herman 1999; Ley & Williams 1992, 1994; Oliver et al. 1998). Nests are often also built amongst mistletoes in trees (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering & Herman 1999; Oliver et al. 1998; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). In the Capertee Valley, during 1994 to 1997, of the 251 nests, 142 (56.6%) were in River Sheoak, 42 (16.7%) in Rough-barked Apple, 50 (19.9%) in eucalypt trees, and 17 (6.8%) in mistletoe (Geering 2005 pers. comm.). Nests have also been recorded in exotic trees, native shrubs, among flood debris, in the top of a fence post or tree stump, and on a rafter in an open shed (Higgins et al. 2001; Ley et al. 2002; Ryan 1981).

The cup-shaped nests, which are generally composed of strips of bark or dry grass or both, and bound with spider web, are usually placed toward the end of large, usually horizontal branches, and often supported by vertical twigs, or sometimes in vertical forks (Geering 1997; Geering & French 1998; Geering & Herman 1999; Higgins et al. 2001; Ley 1990; Ley & Williams 1994, 1998; Menkhorst 1997a; Oliver et al. 1998; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).


Refuge habitat

The Regent Honeyeater is believed to use lowland coastal forest as a refuge when the preferred box-ironbark habitats are affected by drought (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Menkhorst et al. 1999a). It is thought that the long-term survival of the species in the Capertee Valley is underpinned by the availability of Spotted Gum forests in the Hunter Valley and Swamp Mahogany forests on the central coast as a refuge during drought. The loss of these forests, or of tracts of suitable habitat that connect these forests with more typical habitats, would likely result in a major reduction in the size of the Regent Honeyeater population in the Capertee Valley, and would also likely lead to declines or extinctions in other populations, particularly in Victoria (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

The Regent Honeyeater regularly occurs in White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland, which is listed as Critically Endangered under the EPBC Act and as an Endangered Ecological Community under the NSW TSC Act. The species occasionally occurs in the Cumberland Plain Shale Woodlands and Shale-Gravel Transition Forest, which is listed as Critically Endangered under the EPBC Act.

Longevity

Generation length is estimated at eight years, but this estimate is considered to be of low reliability (Garnett et al. 2011). Observation of banded birds indicate that the Regent Honeyeater can live for around 10 years in the wild, and possibly longer (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Higgins et al. 2001). No age related deaths have been recorded in the captive breeding population, which also contains birds that are approximately 10 years old (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

Breeding

Breeding can occur during the first year (in the season following hatching) (Geering 2005 pers. comm.) and exhibit some level of site fidelity, but have been observed breeding up to 85 km away from previous breeding sites (Geering & French 1998). The species breeds from May to March, but with a peak in breeding activity from September to November (Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001). Throughout the range of the species, seasonal patterns in breeding appear to correspond to regional patterns in the flowering of key eucalypt and mistletoe species (Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001), especially Mugga Ironbark (which flowers from May to December), White Box (which flowers from June to October), Yellow Box (which flowers from September to February) and Needle-leaf Mistletoe (which flowers from August to November) (Webster & Menkhorst 1992). In areas where Mugga Ironbark or Yellow Gum provide an important source of nectar, the breeding season is primarily from August to November, with a complete absence of records during summer (Franklin et al. 1989). In the Capertee Valley, breeding generally commences with the flowering of Needle-leaf Mistletoe; this is used extensively in the early stages of the breeding season, but birds often switch to Yellow Box when it begins flowering later in the season. Breeding that occurs late in the season (November to January) is generally associated with the flowering of Yellow Box or Mugga Ironbark. Early breeding (i.e. July) often occurs in years in which White Box flowers extensively (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering 1997; Geering & French 1998).

The female lays two or occasionally three pinkish to reddish-buff eggs, these being marked with brownish or reddish spots (Franklin et al. 1989; Geering & French 1998; Higgins et al. 2001; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). The eggs are incubated by the female only for a period of 12–15 days (Davis & Recher 1993; Geering & French 1998; Ley & Williams 1994, 1998; Oliver 1998a, 1998b; Oliver et al. 1998).

Both parents feed the nestlings and remove faecal sacs (Bounds et al. 1996; Higgins et al. 2001; Ley & Williams 1994, 1998; Oliver 1998a). Young generally fledge (depart the nest) 13–17 days after hatching, but the period can be longer (up to 21 days) during cold weather (Geering & French 1998; Ley & Williams 1994; Oliver 1998a). The fledgelings, which are fed by both adults, become independent approximately three to four weeks after leaving the nest (Bounds et al. 1996; Ley 1990; Ley & Williams 1994, 1998; Oliver 1998a). Pairs may re-nest after a successful or failed breeding attempt, and one pair was observed to make four breeding attempts in a single season (Bounds et al. 1996; Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering & French 1998; Ley & Williams 1998; Oliver et al. 1998). Pairs sometimes re-nest several kilometres away from the site of their previous breeding attempt (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering & French 1998; Higgins et al. 2001).

Breeding success

Breeding success varies annually. In the Capertee Valley in NSW, the probability of a nest and its contents surviving from laying to fledging was 38.7% (n=73 nests) in 1995, 46.9% (n=42 nests) in 1996 and in 26.8% in 1997. The mean number of young that were fledged from successful nests varied from 1.39 fledgelings per nest, from nests in open paddocks in 1995, to 1.91 fledgelings per nest, at nests in gallery forest in 1995 (Geering & French 1998; Geering & Herman 1999).

In the Bundarra-Barraba area of NSW, in 1993 and 1994–95, the probability of survival from laying to fledging, based on a total of 51 nests, was 38.3%. Within years, the probability of survival varied from 49.7% in 1995 to 24.4% in 1996. Of the 51 nests recorded, 10 were abandoned prior to laying, and were excluded from the above analysis. Of the remaining 41 nests, 21 (51.2%) were successful, and fledged a total of 44 young, equal to 2.1 fledgelings per successful nest (Oliver et al. 1998). Also in the Bundarra-Barraba area, from 1984 to 1992, of 20 nests recorded, four (20.0%) were successful, and fledged a total of nine young, equal to 2.25 fledgelings per successful nest (Ley & Williams 1998).

Near Armidale in NSW, of 30 recorded nesting attempts, 22 (73.3%) were successful, and fledged 28 young, equal to 1.27 fledgelings per attempt (Bounds et al. 1996; Ley 1990). At Chiltern in Victoria, in 1995, the probability of a nest surviving from laying to fledging was 11.3% (Oliver et al. 1998). At north Watson in the ACT, eight young were fledged from four of seven (57.1%) nesting attempts (Bounds et al. 1996).

In addition, of 35 nests recorded throughout the species' range over two seasons, 16 (45.7%) successfully fledged at least one young, five (14.3%) probably fledged one young, and 14 (40.0%) failed; in NSW, 11 successful nests produced 22 fledgelings, equal to 2.0 fledgelings per successful nest; and in Victoria, six successful nests produced 10 fledgelings, equal to 1.67 fledgelings per successful nest (Webster & Menkhorst 1992); and of 53 nests from throughout the species' range, 30 (56.6%) successfully fledged at least one young, and 23 (43.4%) failed (Higgins et al. 2001).

Predation is probably the main cause of nest failure in the Regent Honeyeater, but many losses also result from extreme weather conditions, especially hot weather, strong winds and storms (Bounds et al. 1996; Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Geering & French 1998; Higgins et al. 2001; Ley 1990; Oliver 1998a). In the Capertee Valley, at least five nests were lost in strong winds, three nests with large young were lost in cold wet weather, one nest was deserted during incubation when the male disappeared, five nests failed near time of fledging with no obvious cause, and in four cases predation was suspected (Geering & French 1998). In the Bundarra-Barraba area, predation was the suspected cause of failure at 12.5–50.0% of failed nests (Oliver 1998a); and nests on horizontal branches had a higher success rate (55% of 20 nests successful) than nests in other sites (32.3% of 31 nests successful) (Oliver et al. 1998). Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) have been seen to take nestlings (Ley & Williams 1998) and nests are parasitised by Pallid Cuckoos (Higgins 1999).

The diet of the Regent Honeyeater consists mainly of nectar, supplemented with some invertebrates (mostly insects) and their exudates (e.g. lerp, honeydew), and occasionally fruit, or, very rarely, other plant items such as seeds or sap. Nectar is taken mainly from a variety of eucalypt species, especially Mugga Ironbark, Yellow Box, White Box and Yellow Gum, and often from mistletoes (e.g. Needle-leaf Mistletoe, Box Mistletoe (Amyema miquelii)), but also from other plants, both native (Acacia spp., Banksia spp. and Grevillea spp.) and introduced (Fuchsia spp. and Prunus spp.) (Franklin et al. 1989; Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Higgins et al. 2001; Menkhorst 1997a; Oliver 2000; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

The composition of diet varies according to the availability of nectar. When nectar is available, Regent Honeyeaters tend to focus or specialise on flowering plants, and at times may feed almost exclusively on just a few flowering species. When nectar is scarce, they may spend up to 90% of their foraging time feeding on lerp, honeydew and insects. The diet, at least in the Bundarra-Barraba region of NSW, appears to vary little between the breeding and non-breeding seasons, although breeding birds tend to take a greater proportion of insect material (mostly lerp) (Oliver 2000). Furthermore, both insects and lerp are important in the diet of young, comprising 76% of the observed diet of nestlings, and 88% of the observed diet of fledgelings (Oliver 1998c).

In a study of captive birds at Taronga Zoo, the diet varied across the April to September study period: nectar intake was variable, but peaked in July and was, on average, greater in winter than in spring; fruit consumption was more common in autumn and early winter; and insect feeding was much more common in late winter and spring. These results suggest a seasonal transition from a carbohydrate-based diet to a more protein-based diet (Munro et al. 2003).


Regent Honeyeaters select the largest trees available to forage in, as these typically provide more food (with greater nectar flows) than smaller trees. As such, the Regent Honeyeater is vulnerable to silvicultural practices that selectively remove large, spreading trees to promote the regeneration of dense regrowth, the timber of which is used for production purposes (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Oliver 2000; Robinson & Traill 1996; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

The Regent Honeyeater undertakes a complex series of migratory movements, which are thought to be governed mainly by the flowering of a select number of Eucalyptus species (Franklin et al. 1987, 1989; Higgins et al. 2001). Although a recent study in the Capertee Valley suggested that other resources such as insects may influence the spatial movements of Regent Honeyeaters (French et al. 2003), the evidence for this is unsubstantiated (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

The species is highly mobile, capable of travelling large distances (Geering & French 1998; Geering & Herman 1999; Ley et al. 1996; Higgins et al. 2001). There are three main trends in the movement patterns:

  • Movement into parts of northern NSW and south-east Queensland (and formerly South Australia) in autumn, followed by the concentration of birds into core breeding areas on the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range in north-western, central-western and south-western NSW, and north-eastern Victoria, in late winter (or sometimes as early as March or April at Chiltern, Victoria).
  • Corresponding movement out of southern Victoria and the high country of south-eastern Australia, from late autumn to early spring.
  • Regular use of sites in different regions that exhibit predictable annual peaks in nectar production (Franklin et al. 1987, 1989).

It is thought that these regular movements between regions may also be combined with movements on a local scale (Franklin et al. 1989; Ley & Williams 1992). Recent reviews have found no evidence to suggest that the Regent Honeyeater is a sedentary or resident species (Franklin & Menkhorst 1988; Franklin et al. 1989), despite earlier records to the contrary (Higgins et al. 2001). They are described variously as nomadic, erratic or irruptive (subject to population explosions and subsequent sharp population crashes) at many locations throughout their range, and are also thought possibly to be migratory (Franklin & Robinson 1989; Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001). They have been recorded travelling with migrating flocks of Noisy Friarbirds (Philemon corniculatus), and were once recorded in a migrating flock of hundreds of Red Wattlebirds (Anthochaera carunculata) (Higgins et al. 2001).

Because of the complex pattern of movements undertaken by the Regent Honeyeater, a given site may be used only intermittently by the species, but may be of critical importance during its period of use. As such, the infrequent or irregular use of a site does not necessarily reflect the conservation significance of that site (Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

Regional movements

On the northern tablelands and along the mid-north coast of NSW, the occurrence of the Regent Honeyeater peaks between May and August, and then declines during September and October (Franklin et al. 1989), though the species has been recorded from September to January, and in April (Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

In the Bundarra-Barraba area, on the North-West Slopes of NSW, Regent Honeyeaters are mainly present between September and January (Oliver et al. 1999), and when at least some Mugga Ironbark are flowering. It is possible that some are always present in the region, as there are records of the species during March and April, and in July (Ley & Williams 1992; Ley et al. 1996; Oliver et al. 1999).

In Warrumbungle NP on the North-West Plain of NSW, significant concentrations of the species have been recorded during winter and spring in some years, but have been absent in other years (Oliver 1998b; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

On the Central Tablelands of NSW, the occurrence of the species peaks during September and October, and declines slightly during November and December, with the least number of reports obtained during May and June (Franklin et al. 1989).

In the Capertee Valley, Regent Honeyeaters tend to disperse once breeding is complete. Dispersal begins with short distance movements (up to 30 km) into forests on adjacent talus slopes during November and December. More extensive movements begin to occur in February, but the distances and destinations of these movements have yet to be documented. Preliminary evidence suggests that dispersal is facilitated by narrow corridors of forest that extend from the valley floor to the talus slopes on the border of Wollemi NP. There is no evidence of dispersal through the large areas of dry woodland on the sandstone plateau of the park. The Regent Honeyeater generally returns to the valley in late winter (July–August), although in some years (typically when White Box is flowering extensively) they may return as early as May, or perhaps do not depart at all (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

On the southern tablelands, around Canberra, they are a regular visitor in small numbers between August and May (Bounds et al. 1996; Higgins et al. 2001).

Recent records from coastal regions of NSW exhibit no seasonal patterns, and it is thought that at least some coastal areas (e.g. on the Central Coast, and in parts of Sydney) are used when food is scarce in the core breeding areas. The movement of birds from coastal areas of NSW into coastal areas of Victoria is likely to represent dispersal rather than a seasonal contraction (Higgins et al. 2001). Along the southern coast of NSW, most records are from November to February and during July and August (Franklin et al. 1989).

In Victoria, sites where Regent Honeyeaters are regularly reported and breed are now mainly confined to the north-east, in the Wangaratta-Benalla area (Franklin et al. 1987; Higgins et al. 2001; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). The species is now only a rare and sporadic visitor elsewhere in the state, including to central Victoria, around Bendigo and Maryborough (Webster & Menkhorst 1992). Around Chiltern, in the north-eastern district, Regent Honeyeaters usually arrive during March and April, and leave in late spring (or sometimes summer) after breeding (Traill et al. 1996). Very rarely, they may remain in the area throughout summer and autumn (Higgins et al. 2001). Recent summer records at Corowa and Albury in southern NSW, and historical summer seasonality at nearby Rutherglen in Victoria, are likely to represent the short-range dispersal of birds from breeding sites around Chiltern (Higgins et al. 2001). In southern Victoria, where they are now rare, some Regent Honeyeaters appear to disperse from the main breeding areas on the inland slopes into other habitats, including coastal Victoria, in summer (Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001).


Local movement

Little data is available on home ranges. During the breeding season, nests may be located up to 1 km from the nearest preferred species of flowering eucalypts, though they are typically situated much closer to such foraging sites (Davis & Recher 1993; Ford et al. 2000; Geering & French 1998; Ley & Williams 1994). Outside of the breeding season, foraging sites are sometimes located up to 800 m from communal roosting sites (Oliver 1998b).

Pairs defend a breeding territory, consisting of the nest, nest-tree, and the surrounding area (including feeding areas), from conspecifics and other birds (Bounds et al. 1996; Geering & French 1998; Ley & Williams 1994, 1998; Oliver 1998a; Webster & Menkhorst 1992). The extent of breeding territories varies; territorial boundaries may be located 5–40 m or more from the nest or nest-tree (Bounds et al. 1996; Higgins et al. 2001).

In addition, birds will sometimes attempt to defend a feeding site or temporary feeding territory against conspecifics and other, usually nectarivorous birds (Franklin & Robinson 1989; Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001), and birds often engage in aggressive interactions with other species at feeding areas (Higgins et al. 2001).

Given a reasonable view, an experienced observer is unlikely to confuse the Regent Honeyeater with any other species. The Regent Honeyeater can be identified by its large size (relative to other honeyeaters), yellowish to pinkish warty facial patch and plumage characters, such as pale yellow scalloping on the upperparts, yellow panels on the folded wings, pale yellow to white chevrons on the breast and upper belly, pale yellow lower belly, and a mostly yellow undertail when the bird is perched (Higgins et al. 2001). Inexperienced observers often confuse New Holland Honeyeaters (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) and, less frequently, White-cheeked Honeyeaters (P. nigra) with Regent Honeyeaters (Geering 2005 pers. comm.). Inexperienced observers might also potentially confuse the Regent Honeyeater with the Painted Honeyeater (Grantiella picta) (Higgins et al. 2001).

Regent Honeyeaters can be conspicuous during the breeding season, and when larger groups form at good sources of nectar, but at other times they are often inconspicuous and difficult to locate (calling quietly and frequenting crowns of trees) (Higgins et al. 2001; DEWHA 2010l). They are capable of mimicking the calls of other birds, including other large honeyeaters, but have not been recorded mimicking the smaller Painted Honeyeater (Higgins et al. 2001). As detection is usually by call, observers should be aware that calls appear to differ in the northern and southern parts of the Regent Honeyeater's range (DEWHA 2010l). Also, many of the recordings that are available commercially are not typical examples of the call (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

The recommended method for surveying the Regent Honeyeater is to conduct area searches in suitable habitat (DEWHA 2010l). Targeted searches in patches of woodland that have heavily-flowering trees or that are infested by lerp can also be useful, especially near waterpoints such as creeks and dams, and observers should also inspect flocks of other nectarivorous birds such as Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) and other honeyeaters (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; DEWHA 2010l). Broadcast surveys can be useful if conducted immediately prior to or during the breeding season (Geering 1997; DEWHA 2010l).

Detection is usually by call, or otherwise by sighting. Surveys should be conducted in the morning if possible (DEWHA 2010l), although birds can be detected at other times of the day (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; DEWHA 2010l). Detection is easiest during the breeding season, when birds respond strongly to broadcast calls (Geering 2005 pers. comm.). Detection can be difficult during the non-breeding season, as birds ignore broadcast calls, and are often quiet and difficult to observe (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; DEWHA 2010l).

The decline of the Regent Honeyeater is due mainly to the loss, fragmentation and degradation of the species' habitat. The causes for this habitat decline are described by Garnett (1993), Garnett and Crowley (2000), Ley and Williams (1992), Menkhorst (1993, 1997a), Oliver and colleagues (1998), Peters (1979), and Webster and Menkhorst (1992), and are as follows:

  • the clearance and fragmentation of high-quality habitat for agricultural purposes
  • increased dieback and tree decline in agricultural and pastoral areas
  • grazing by livestock and rabbits, which prevents native vegetation from regenerating
  • silvicultural practices that promote dense regrowth of immature trees via the removal of large spreading trees from box-ironbark woodlands
  • the removal of ironbark trees for fence posts, firewood and timber supplies.

The sensitivity of the Regent Honeyeater to the removal of large trees is due to the tendency of the species to select the largest trees available for foraging and (to some degree) nesting (Geering 2005 pers. comm.; Oliver et al. 1998; Oliver 2000; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

All of the above threats result in the fragmentation of habitat. This fragmentation is capable of affecting the species on a broad scale. For example, the loss of Yellow Box woodlands, which flower in summer and provide food for breeding birds, is likely to be of greatest significance to the species. Also, the fragmentation of woodlands in general can greatly diminish the ability of the Regent Honeyeater to move across the landscape (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

In addition, the fragmentation of woodland habitats may also have allowed populations of large, aggressive honeyeaters (e.g. friarbirds (Philemon spp.) and miners (Manorina spp.)) to expand, resulting in competition between Regent Honeyeaters and other species for sources of food and for nest-sites (Ford et al. 1993; Franklin et al. 1989; Higgins et al. 2001; Webster & Menkhorst 1992).

The Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia) Recovery Plan 1999-2003 (Menkhorst et al. 1999a) outlines recovery objectives and actions for the species.

The 2011 Action Plan for Australian Birds outlines the following conservation objectives relevant to the recovery effort of the Regent Honeyeater (Garnett et al. 2011):

  • persistence of the species in the wild
  • breeding in the wild of the offspring of reintroduced birds
  • a viable captive population.

The 2011 Action Plan for Australian Birds also identifies types of information required for the recovery effort of the Regent Honeyeater including information on movement patterns, impacts of Noisy Miners (Manorina melanocephala), relevant silvicultural techniques to maximise food availability and genetic variability (Garnett et al. 2011). The plan also identifies required management actions for the recovery of the species, including:

  • continuation of monitoring programs
  • establishing and maintaining a reintroduced population
  • continuation of habitat restoration at a landscape scale
  • protection of breeding and feeding sites on public land, including Travelling Stock Routes
  • continuation of support for the recovery team
  • continuation of support for  community involvement in the recovery program.

The Queensland Government (Qld EPA 2008a) recommends the following actions to assist the recovery of the Regent Honeyeater:

  • exclude vegetation clearance for a buffer of 200 m around known nesting sites
  • limit clearing of native forest in known or suitable habitat to essential infrastructure and firebreaks
  • encourage rehabilitation projects that link Regent Honeyeater habitat (box-ironbark and riverine casuarina woodland)
  • use appropriate fuel management operations, including the use of mosaic burns, burn intensities that maintain 25% of litter and groundcover, and burns that do not damage food and nest trees
  • limit grazing pressure to maintain groundcover and regeneration
  • control and eradicate feral cats, foxes and pigs
  • report sightings.

Recovery Actions Completed

Timber extraction, grazing and mining are now prohibited at important sites that are used regularly by the Regent Honeyeater (Webster & Menkhorst 1992). There is ongoing monitoring of the breeding population in the Capertee Valley (Geering 2005a), and there is ongoing analysis of existing and new records to determine whether any changes have occurred in the distribution of the species. A captive breeding program has been established successfully (Garnett & Crowley 2000; Menkhorst et al. 1999a). In addition, a range of mechanisms have been employed to protect known and potential foraging and breeding habitat; these measures include threatened species legislation, controls on the clearance of vegetation, the inclusion of management prescriptions into codes of practice for the forestry industry, and voluntary actions including conservation agreements, covenants, and the implementation of Land for Wildlife schemes (Menkhorst et al. 1999a). Details of some specific recovery efforts are given below.

In May 1990, staff from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) located up to 30 Regent Honeyeaters on freehold land near Lurg, Victoria and aggregations of birds were observed at the site in the four subsequent winters. Local landholders were informed of the significance of the land and its remnant eucalypt vegetation to the Regent Honeyeater recovery effort, and thus the need for the habitat to be maintained. The area was then targeted by the local LandCare group, who sought to establish corridors of 'key' tree species to link the existing remnant stands of eucalypt vegetation. This program has since developed into an intensive revegetation effort (Willett 1993) involving more than 20 properties and hundreds of volunteers, who plant and propagate indigenous trees, shrubs and groundcover plants. Through this process, more than 54 000 plants have been planted and 30 km of fencing installed. In addition, detailed mapping of the remnant habitat at Lurg has been undertaken by NRE staff, and this information has been used to guide revegetation priorities and to analyse the preferences of the Regent Honeyeaters for remnants of different sizes and shapes (Mann & Davidson 1993; Menkhorst et al. 1999a).

In 1991 and 1992, areas of freehold land located to the west of Yarrambat Golf Course (Victoria), and visited regularly by Regent Honeyeaters, were acquired by the Melbourne Water Corporation for inclusion into Plenty Gorge Parklands. Near Bundarra (NSW), Birds Australia (northern NSW) used funds from the Save the Bush program to undertake a public education program and revegetation works in strategically important Travelling Stock Reserves and freehold land. The group has also mapped remnants of Box-Ironbark woodland and has liaised with landholders to improve the management of woodland remnants (Menkhorst 1997a). Similarly, Birds Australia (southern NSW and ACT) obtained funding from the NSW Environmental Trust Fund to undertake an extensive program to enhance and expand the habitat of the Regent Honeyeater in the Capertee Valley (Menkhorst et al. 1999a).

Nine captive-bred birds were released into the Capertee Valley in 2000 as part of a trial re-introduction. Five birds that were radio-tagged were known to have survived for at least five weeks, but there were no subsequent records of birds that had been colour-banded (Geering 2005, pers. comm.). Twenty-seven birds (2008) and 44 birds (2010) were released in the Chiltern-Mount Pilot NP in Victoria, some of which were observed over the subsequent year (Garnett et al. 2011).


The following projects have received Government funding grants for conservation and recovery work benefiting the Regent Honeyeater:

Birds Australia (Northern NSW Group) received $26 300 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2000–01 for Regent Honeyeater habitat rehabilitation and protection.

Murringo and East Young Landcare Group (NSW) received $10 200 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2000–01, part of which was for the creation of a corridor to link two important blocks of habitat for this species.

The NSW Wildlife Information and Rescue Service received $6000 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2000–01, part of which was for the protection and enhancement of Regent Honeyeater habitat by modifying management of stock routes.

The Conservation Council of SA received $6390 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2001–02 for the identification of declining species of birds (including the Regent Honeyeater), as well as critical habitat, significant impacts, gaps in management knowledge, and recommendation of priorities for better management.

The Sheep Pen Creek Land Management Group (Victoria) received $29 200 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002–03, part of which was for the implementation of a community based strategic conservation plan to identify species for conservation (including the Regent Honeyeater), and the identification of actions needed to conserve them and how those actions will be incorporated into whole farm and regional plans.

Birds Australia (Northern NSW Group) received $18 300 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002–03 for the protection, enhancement and linking of open forest or woodland habitat.

Birds Australia (NSW) received $14 080 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002–03 for the planting of 800 trees and shrubs on three sites in Capertee Valley to provide additional feeding and nesting habitat for the Regent Honeyeater.

Ovens, King, Black Dog Implementation Committee, North East Catchment Management Authority (Victoria) received $13 000 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002–03, part of which was for the development and enhancement of vegetation links between two major remnants in order to improve overall quality of habitat for the Regent Honeyeater in the Chiltern region.

The Nature Conservation Working Group (NSW) received $27 300 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2004–05, part of which was for the protection, enhancement and expansion of Grassy Box Woodland and securing habitat for the Regent Honeyeater.

A Central Coast Regent Honeyeater Volunteer (NSW) received $10 815 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2005–06 for habitat assessment to ensure the availability of long-term winter resources.

The Upper Gwydir Landcare Association and Bingara Local Landcare recieved $8864 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2007–08. This project aimed to revegetate a mostly-cleared riparian area with flora species recommended as habitat for the Regent Honeyeater, to recreate Box-Gum Woodland, and to raise awareness in the wider community of this threatened community and the Regent Honeyeater, so that sightings are reported and habitat retained and regenerated.

Greta Valley Landcare Group (Victoria) received $27 273 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2008–09 for the `Greta Valley Biolink for Threatened Woodland Birds' project. The project aimed to protect, enhance and restore habitat that provides for the movement of regent honeyeaters, swift parrots, grey-crowned babblers and other fauna species on the cleared plains of the Greta Valley.

Friends of Myall Creek (Queensland) received $8582 through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2008–09 for Regent Honeyeater re-establishment on Myall Creek. The project aimed to re-establish key habitat for the endangered Regent Honeyeater along Myall Creek.

Studies relevant to the Regent Honeyeater include:

  • breeding of the species by Bounds and colleagues (1996), Davis and Recher (1993), Geering and French (1998), Ley and Williams (1994, 1998) and Oliver (1998a)
  • feeding and foraging behaviour by Ford and colleagues (1993), Franklin and Robinson (1989), Munro and McFadden (2005) and Oliver (1998b, 2000)
  • survey studies by Ford and colleagues (2000) and Franklin and colleagues (1987)
  • aspects of the species in the Capertee Valley, NSW, by Geering (1997), and Geering and Herman (1999)
  • mimicry of the species by Veerman (1992, 1994)
  • general studies by Ley and colleagues (1996), Ley and Williams (1992), Munro and McFadden (2005), Oliver (1998b), Schodde and colleagues (1992) and Webster and Menkhorst (1992)
  • operations groups associated with the Regent Honeyeater recovery effort conduct ongoing monitoring of the honeyeater populations in the Capertee Valley, NSW (Geering 2005 pers. comm.).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 (Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley, 2000) [Cwlth Action Plan].
Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan - 1999-2003 (Menkhorst, P., N. Schedvin & D. Geering, 1999a) [Recovery Plan].
Commonwealth Listing Advice on Land clearance (Threatened Species Scientific Committee, 2001w) [Listing Advice].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Habitat Shifting and Alteration:Habitat loss, modification and/or degradation Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Ecosystem Degradation:Decline in habitat quality Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan - 1999-2003 (Menkhorst, P., N. Schedvin & D. Geering, 1999a) [Recovery Plan].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human Intrusions and Disturbance:Human induced disturbance due to unspecified activities Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Apis mellifera (Honey Bee, Apiary Bee) Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan - 1999-2003 (Menkhorst, P., N. Schedvin & D. Geering, 1999a) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Predation, competition, habitat degradation and/or spread of pathogens by introduced species Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (NSW DECCW), 2010p) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Problematic Native Species:Competition and/or predation by birds Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan - 1999-2003 (Menkhorst, P., N. Schedvin & D. Geering, 1999a) [Recovery Plan].
Residential and Commercial Development:Housing and Urban Areas:Habitat loss, modification and fragmentation due to urban development Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan - 1999-2003 (Menkhorst, P., N. Schedvin & D. Geering, 1999a) [Recovery Plan].
Species Stresses:Indirect Species Effects:Low numbers of individuals Regent Honeyeater Recovery Plan - 1999-2003 (Menkhorst, P., N. Schedvin & D. Geering, 1999a) [Recovery Plan].

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Anthochaera phrygia in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:13:38 +1000.