Who are Taronga’s frequent flyers? The award goes to 40 Regent Honeyeaters. This week, these birds flew further than their tiny wings would carry them, after their dedicated keepers loaded them onto an aircraft bound for Victoria, where they were released into the wild!
Why is this so significant? Because the stunning black and golden woodland birds are critically endangered, that means they’re just one step away from becoming extinct. Years ago the species used to be found all along the Great Diving Range, but now they’re only found isolated pockets.
For the past few days, Taronga’s bird keepers have been settling the 40 birds into the forest habitat. We helped them adjust to their new home by placing them in huge tents. By doing this, they could see out, smell the new habitat, hear the sounds of the wild birds and slowly get used to what would soon become their new forest home.
Today the five tents were opened up and the birds were able to fly free into Chiltern Pilot National Park. This big event attracted quite a crowd and after about 10- 15 minutes the bravest of the birds flew out of the tents.
A few moments later a group of eight Regent Honeyeaters flew out together into a nearby stringy bark.
About 25 of the birds have been fitted with transmitters which were specially adapted for the tiny birds by Dean Ingwersen, from BirdLife Australia's National Regent Honeyeater Recovery Co-ordinator and Taronga’s bird keepers.
Regent Honeyeaters, like other species of honeyeaters, rely on flowering events in our forests for their food, so they’re relatively nomadic and can travel large distances.
This makes them a difficult species to study particularly when there are so few of them. So being able to monitor the newly released Zoo-bred birds will provide invaluable information for researchers.
There’s so much we are still learning about Regent Honeyeater movements and habitat requirements and each detailed sighting report adds to our knowledge about individual birds and the species.
Taronga has released Regent Honeyeaters at Chiltern before, and thanks to volunteer twitchers, Zoo-bred birds have been seen living and mating with wild birds.
We hope that the 40 birds released this week will have just as a successful life in the wild and help their species come back from the brink of extinction.