News just in from the field! This morning, the last of the Zoo bred Regent Honeyeaters "flew the coop.” They’re now flying around in the forest, wild as can be!
Our bird keepers will soon pack up their forest campsite and travel back to Sydney, but will continue to get reports on the birds thanks to volunteers who will track them as they explore their new woodland home.
25 of the Taronga birds have been fitted with specially adapted trackers, and all of the birds have unique coloured ID bands. Little is known about this nomadic bird, so we hope our new wild recruits will teach us more about this Australian species.
The lead up to this release has been the culmination of a lot of hard work. The matching and the hatching of the birds started months ago, with keepers pairing up the best birds to produce genetically healthy chicks. Keepers scoured the Zoo for spider webs which the birds used to make nests and heaps of food was placed in the aviaries to encourage breeding.
The birds which were released into Chiltern Pilot National Park were played the calls of wild Regent Honeyeaters, so they could get used to the sounds but also to prevent them from having a ‘Taronga accent’.
All of the birds were given thorough medical checks and spent a stint in quarantine, before boarding a flight to Victoria. The bird keepers had travelled down in advance to set up large tents in the forest which the Regents were initially placed into to help them acclimatise.
For our keepers, the preservation of this species has been a labour of love. They’ve helped raise the chicks, they’ve got them to Victoria and they’ve literally slept next to the birds in the forest, preparing for the day they could set them free.
In two weeks time, many of the same staff will travel to Capertee Valley, one of the best birding areas in Australia. They’ll put their green thumbs to good use, planting trees to regenerate woodland habitat. This area is considered one of the most important breeding area for Regent Honeyeaters.
Why go to so much effort for a tiny bird many people know nothing about? Well, Regent Honeyeaters are important pollinators, helping to disperse seeds across the forest in their travels. They’ve become a flagship species for many threatened animals and plants found in the box-ironbark forests of Victoria and NSW. Efforts to save the Regent Honeyeater will also help to conserve many others including the Swift Parrot, Superb Parrot, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Squirrel Glider and Painted Honeyeater.