My ears are still ringing from the mellifluous preparations for the recent Regent Honeyeater release. Thirty eight, young black and gold honeyeaters flying around in our pre- release holding aviaries is a wonderful sight.
Llike any youngsters they need a helping hand in transitioning to the big, wild world. The Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team field biologists working with Taronga have noticed an interesting difference in the calls that some of our parent honeyeaters produce, when compared to the usual wild honeyeaters vocalisations – they apparently have a ‘Taronga’ accent.
We’re not sure where these differences have arisen – there are many bird species in close proximity in the Zoo, not to mention all the local wild ones that the fledglings can hear once they leave their nests. It may be that this highly melodious Zoo environment in their critical learning period is affecting their ‘accent’.
Ensuring our Regent Honeyeaters have vocalisations that their wild counterparts recognise is very important. So we’ve been giving them a helping hand - over the summer and autumn we’ve been playing recordings of wild Regent Honeyeater calls to them. Speakers have been installed in several holding aviaries where the youngsters are moved to once they’ve left the nest and during the day a range of calls are played on a loop to familiarise them with their ‘wild’ counterparts - a bit like finishing school for young regents.
One of the captive bred females released in a previous year was seen tending chicks in wild nest so we’re confident that the Zoo bred birds are connecting with their wild ones and that Taronga ‘slang’ is recognisable in the realm of Regent Honeyeater communications. We are working with Macquarie University over the next two years to answer questions about song learning in the Regent Honeyeaters.
By Judith Gillespie