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Regent honeyeater

Regent honeyeater  Photo: D Stewart, EHP

Regent honeyeater Photo: D Stewart, EHP

Common name: regent honeyeater

Scientific name: Anthochaera phrygia  

Family: Meliphagidae

Conservation status: The regent honeyeater is Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and Endangered nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is ranked as a medium priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Back on Track species prioritisation framework.

Description

The adult regent honeyeater is one of Australia's most striking and handsome birds. It is a medium-large sized honeyeater, up to 23 cm in length. Females are slightly smaller than males. Both sexes look alike, possessing a black head with a pink or cream coloured patch of warty skin around the eye. The upper parts of the body and wings are black with yellow patches and streaks. The throat and upper-breast are black merging into a pale lemon on the lower breast were the feathers are scalloped black. The tail is black with yellow edging to the feathers. The bill and feet are primarily dark.

The call consists of a series of soft fluid phrases and short metallic chinks.

Habitat and distribution

The regent honeyeater is found from Dalby, south-eastern Queensland, south to Bendigo in Vitoria, especially along the ranges and the western slopes. However, its distribution is extremely patchy with only a small number of known breeding sites. In south-east Queensland it is found ranging from Cooloola, Great Sandy National Park to near the Queensland-New South Wales border. In Queensland, breeding occurs regularly west of Warwick by a small number of individual regent honeyeaters. The estimated total population is between 350 and 400 mature individuals.

The regent honeyeater is found in dry eucalypt woodland and open forest, rural and urban areas with mature eucalypts. It favours ironbark-box associations, mugga ironbark Eucalyptus sideroxylon, white box E. albens, yellow box E. melliodora. Other habitat includes swamp mahogany E. robusta, or spotted gum Corymbia maculata or river she-oak Casuarina cunninghamiana with associated needle-leaf mistletoe Amyena cambagei.

The regent honeyeater generally prefers wetter, more fertile sites that are reliable nectar producers (both in timing and quantity), such as creek flats, river valleys and lower slopes.

Life history and behaviour

The regent honeyeater feeds on nectar and arthropods and occasionally fruit. Generally this honeyeater is found singularly or in small groups. However, flocks up to 37 birds have been recorded. The regent honeyeater is nomadic or a partial seasonal migrant that is dependent on nectar availability. Breeding pairs occupy territories occasionally in loose aggregations and may hold temporary feeding territories outside breeding season. Breeding pairs also exhibit some fidelity to breeding site/district. Breeding has been recorded between June and February with a core period recorded from early August to late November.

Threatening processes

A major threat to the regent honeyeater is destruction and fragmentation of habitat that contains the birds preferred eucalypt species. At least 75 per cent of the regent honeyeater’s habitat, especially the most preferred habitat, has been cleared. Other threats to the species include loss of trees due to felling for fence posts and firewood, and eucalypt dieback and decline in habitat quality, including lack of regeneration, due to stock and rabbit grazing and stock trampling of riparian habitats. Other aggressive honeyeater species such as noisy miners Manorina melanocephala compete with the regent honeyeater for resources and sometimes habitat remnants.

Recovery actions

A recovery plan for the regent honeyeater has been developed and makes the following recommendations for the conservation of the species:

  • Establish a monitoring program at the three main breeding areas: Capertee Valley, New South Wales; Bundarra, New South Wales; and Chiltern, Victoria.
  • Rehabilitate and revegetate habitat and facilitate community ownership and participation in these activities.
  • Initiate innovative research into movement patterns, particularly post breeding, and the degree of isolation between breeding populations.
  • Investigate the impact of noisy miners on population stability.
  • Raise awareness about the species and its requirements.
  • Develop habitat management partnerships with land owners within the range of the species.

Further information

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 2012. Anthochaera phrygia - Regent honeyeater: Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.

Garnett ST, Szabo JK and Duntson G 2011. The action plan for Australian birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.

Menkhorst P, Schedvin N and Geering D. 1999. Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia) Recovery Plan 1999-2003. Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra.

Last updated
1 May 2013