Regent Honeyeater Captive Release 2017
This page builds on information regarding the Regent Honeyeater captive release program. For more details on previous years activities See: Regent Honeyeater Captive Release 2015 - 2016
Update No. 1, February 2017
The captive breeding of Regent Honeyeaters at Taronga Zoo has been very productive over the last 2 years. The Zoo is set to provide a record number of birds (90+) for the 2017 release (well in advance of the 77 birds released in 2015).
Update No. 2, March 2017
Release dates: Wednesday April 12th and Sunday 16th April (Easter Sunday) in the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park. Exact numbers have not been made available yet but 2017 will be the largest cohort of Regent Honeyeaters ever released into the wild.
The releases will provide a unique opportunity for the community to witness the world's largest Regent release to date.
Opportunities to view or monitor
There are a number of ways you can be involved but all require pre-registration which must be done by Wednesday April 5th. Please Email Liz Wemyss or Glen Johnson to indicate whether you:
1) Wish to attend the Wed 12th April and/or Sun 16th April captive releases. Please indicate:
a) Viewing only - not participating in monitoring on the day(s); or BYO
b) Viewing and able to participate in monitoring on the day(s) see pt 2 below
2) Can assist in post-release monitoring during the initial 10-12 week tracking period (and potentially up to 30 weeks of Regents in the park while flowering resources last this season). Please also indicate the potential level of participation:
a) One-off day(s) - please advise date(s) if possible
b) Regular one day per week - pleases advise likely day
c) Two or more days per week - please advise likely days or whether weekend available.
When you RSVP - Please ensure you provide your full name, email address, mobile phone number.
It is essential that volunteers who wish to assist in surveying register their interest as above. We'll then provide essential information including links to free phone apps that must be undertaken/downloaded prior to arriving on site.
Release process – what happens on the day?
On both the 12th and 16th of April, the Regent Team require those coming to view the releases to be at the release site by 7:30am in order to complete sign- in's, safety & project briefings and allocating people to post-release monitoring groups. Everyone needs into place by 8:45am as the tents will be opened at 9:00am sharp! Don’t miss your chance to see this amazing sight.
Volunteer monitoring opportunities
Post release monitoring is a critical part of the Regent Honeyeater conservation effort.
The 2017 project will once again provide a opportunity for volunteers to have a unique hands on role in a threatened species monitoring program. The main activity is radio tracking and associated visual confirmations of released (and any wild) Regents, however there are also opportunities to help with radio communications, data collation, office based roles and even moving equipment around.
Monitoring will be undertaken over an extended three to more likely six month period (mid April onwards). In the first couple of weeks post release the Regent team will probably be running a daily monitoring program (8.30am starts) but will scale back progressively over the weeks. At least one weekend day/week will be included. Great opportunities exist for those that can undertake monitoring on a regular basis e.g. each Monday or for several days at a time.
This year volunteers will be able to use electronic monitoring via use of some Apps for smart phones and tablets – Survey123 and HandyGPS.
Regent Honeyeater research continues
A PhD research project identified new factors influencing breeding success (or lack thereof) during the 2015 season. Research will continue in the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park this year to assist again with the monitoring program including investigating breeding outcomes and trial techniques that aim to reduce nest predation and increase the recruitment of fledglings into the population.
Over 100 privileged participants plus assembled media were present for the release of 50 captive bred Regent Honeyeaters on Wednesday 12 April. A further release of 51 Regent Honeyeaters planned for Saturday 16 April was postponed until further notice due to a high mortality of released birds.
Despite a higher than usual level of mortality on the first release for 2017 these releases totalling 101 Regent Honeyeaters will provide a significant injection into this critically endangered species population.
View release video https://www.facebook.com/DELWPHume/videos/1015590018573668/
Neville Bartlett's great post release shots show Regent's once again dominate at least a small patch of the Chiltern Mt. Pilot National Park.
- pick those wearing transmitters (aerials showing) (read bands left leg 1st: this bird is known as "Orange Metal Blue Red"). Image: Neville Bartlett.
The first wild bird record for the season (above) was obtained by volunteers who noted two released birds interacting with a wild Regent. This demonstrates the value of great volunteers and the release program. Image: Neville Bartlett.
All 24 birds with transmitters were recorded safe and well by the end of day two and many of the remaining birds (with no transmitters - but wearing their unique coloured leg bands ) were also confirmed three days after release. These results were in line with previous releases however, by the end of the first five days of monitoring a total of 12 (24%) of the 50 released birds, all wearing transmitters and harnesses, were found dead. This was very unexpected as all four previous Chiltern releases (2008, 2010, 2013 and 2015) had 95% or better survival in the first week.
Early indications are that some of the dead Regents had lost body condition possibly due to starvation as there may have been sub-optimal nectar flow despite seemingly adequate Mugga Ironbark flowering (similar to the 2015 release). It is also known that birds in poor condition, particularly those wearing transmitter and antennae, are susceptible to increased (Goshawk/Sparrowhawk) predation or starvation risk.
No further mortalities
Since the initial mortalities in the first week there have been no further deaths or bird welfare issues in the days since. All remaining Regents are feeding well from Ironbark flowers, plus gleaning insects from foliage or aerial hawking and more recently dunking into water to wash excess, sticky nectar off their plumage nectar (all good signs).
Since the first release the monitoring team have noticed an increasing abundance of other nectivorous birds within the release area and rapidly improving Mugga Ironbark flowering abundance.
There is a favourable forecasts of an extended flowering season through winter into at least early spring.
The 2017 Regent Honeyeater Captive Release and Community Monitoring Project is collaboratively funded by the Victorian Government’s Icon Threatened Species Program (part of the recently launched 'Protecting Victoria's Environment - Biodiversity 2037'), North East Catchment Management Authority (NECMA) through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, BirdLife Australia and NSW's Office of Environment and Heritage's Saving Our Species Project.
A second release 59 Regents (including 9 recaptured birds retained for bird welfare checks post the first release) were released on Friday 28 April 2017. The second release was carried out after assessments determined a significantly improved flowering abundance and nectar availability.
The has been on-going daily monitoring since 16 April 2017 with no further deaths recorded and all nine remaining first release birds wearing transmitters being alive and foraging well amongst a host of other nectivores.
Discovery of 2015 release Regents
Two Regents from the 2015 releases were detected on 28 April 2017.
- 585 days have elapsed since a male with 'Green/Black Red/Metal' bands was last seen alive.
- 229 days since a male 'White/Mauve Red/Metal' was last seen alive.
These observations means the monitoring team have now confirmed eight (>10%) birds at least 12 months post their 2015 release.
Both of the 2015 release birds were recorded interacting with 6 of the first release 2017 birds (with only two of those wearing transmitters, demonstrating the value of accurately recording/photographing band combinations). Interestingly all eight birds were recorded in an area 4km from the release site that was burnt during the December 2015 wildfire that sliced through part of the Chiltern Mt. Pilot National Park
There are a total of 26 birds with transmitters to track and many many more banded only birds out there to record i.e. there's heaps of opportunities for volunteers to assist in the monitoring.
As at 3 May 2017 no deaths have been recorded from either the first or second releases.
There are almost daily observations of Regents. The number of Regents with transmitters has dropped from to 26 to 22 because some of the transmitter birds appear to have moved outside of the roughly 7,500ha area that the team is monitoring and some transmitters are faulty.
Good numbers of banded only birds (over 30) have also been recorded alive and well in the last week. These are obviously harder to locate compared to the transmitter wearing birds.
Other interesting observations
Both 2015 birds reported in the last update are actively interacting with 2017 birds (from both release cohorts). In fact one has already established a strong pair bond with a 2017 release female.
A wild (no leg bands) male was recorded recently. It too has already formed a pair bond with a 2017 female within only four days after that birds release.
- No reported deaths since 16 April.
- 73 individual Regents (including 70 of the 2017 release birds) were recorded alive last week (this is a fantastic effort from everyone that contributed records).
- 23 transmitter birds recorded (almost daily).
- 47 band only birds (that's a fantastic effort given it's a hard ask tracking down transmitter wearing birds let alone those without).
- 2 Regents from the 2015 release.
- 1 Wild bird.
With overnight temperatures getting down near zero this could be good for nectar flow. Apiary studies show that Mugga Ironbark nectar flow increases during frosty conditions like those being currently experienced.
Hybrid Box-Ironbark (another Regent favourite) is looking good for flowering later in the year.
Did you know?
- 868 individual Regent Honeyeater records have been submitted in the post release monitoring period to date.
- 63% of these observations were of Regents actively foraging for nectar from flowering plants (insect hawking, dipping in water, preening etc. accounted for the other records) flowering Mugga Ironbark accounts for 99.9% of those records.
Volunteers - Thank you!
The Regent Honeyeater Team acknowledges the generous contribution of over 80 volunteers that have participated in at least one day on the Regent Honeyeater Community Monitoring Project to date - well done you!
Movement of released Regent Honeyeaters to 8 May 2017
On average 45+ individual Regents are being observed each monitoring day which includes 24 birds fitted with transmitters recorded almost daily.
82 individual Regents were recorded alive in the two weeks since the last update, that includes
- 79 of the 2017 released birds (78% of the original 101 birds released).
- 55 band only birds
- 2 Regents from the 2015 release
- 1 Wild bird
One dead bird was recorded this week (transmitter & antennae with Regent feathers found on ground - likely predation by bird of prey) - although this bird had been missing since (last recorded on) the 24th April.
Image of Regent Honeyeater (black green) on right leg. This is the same bird which had no tail feathers when released 28 days earlier. It demonstrates the bird survived without tail feathers and the time it takes for Regents to re-grow tail feathers. Image: Jun Matsui.
Regent Honeyeater 2017 release (yellow yellow) fitted with transmitter. Image: Neville Bartlett.
Regent Honeyeater 2017 release (pink-orange) fitted with transmitter. Image: Neville Bartlett
Vanessa Giles, DELWP Wodonga GIS Officer has developed a Regent specific smart phone app and mapping systems now being used by observers. This has assisted greatly in the collection of data. Over 1,400 individual Regent Honeyeater observations been lodged on the system so far.
The Regent Team have reported very wintery conditions in the Chiltern – Mt Pilot area with freezing overnight minimum temperatures and cool, sometimes sunny days. The cold weather has had little effect on the Regents as they feed on the nectar produced by the Mugga Ironbark.
Summary of records from the Community Monitoring Project
- On average 54 individual Regents have been recorded each monitoring day.
- Sightings of the 2017 released Regents remains strong with 61 of the 2017 release birds being recorded on a single day.
- Over the previous two weeks the Community Monitoring Project has assisted in recording 80 individual Regent Honeyeaters.
- 78 of the 2017 release birds have been recorded including one bird which had not been seen for 42 days.
- One transmitter bird was recorded dead (it's the only bird known to have died from the '2nd release cohort')
- 22 transmitter birds are still being recorded on a regular basis.
One of 2 Regent Honeyeaters released in 2015 still regularly observed in 2017. Image: Neville Bartlett.
Mugga Ironbark continues to be the Regent Honeyeater's nectar of choice. The above image beautifully captures the importance of this species of Eucalypt (and shows there's still plenty of bud yet to open). Image: Neville Bartlett.
Monitoring of 70 individual regent honeyeaters has continued.
A major task has been to ensure Regents fitted with transmitters can continue to be monitored. As the batteries are starting run out the team has embarked on a recapture to replace transmitters.
The re-capture of Regents has not been an easy task. The team focused on identifying roosting sites and other sites that the birds use during the day. Eventually 11 birds were captured (4 fitted with replacement transmitters; 5 fitted with new transmitters for the first time and 2 were not fitted because they were below the minimum body weight threshold).
2015 "Yellow Yellow" returns!
The Regent Honeyeater "Yellow Yelllow" from the 2015 release was recorded 270 km from the Chiltern release site at Outtrim in East Gippsland in November 2016. In a remarkable turnaround the same Regent returned to Chiltern and was photographed on 7 June 2017.
At the end of June two days were spent undertaking the second phase of recapture to fit transmitters and undertake health checks on captured Regents. Dean Ingwersen confirmed the good news, there were no discernible impacts from birds wearing transmitters and on average all birds (including those with transmitters) gained weight following their release.
20 Regent Honeyeaters were captured:
- 18 birds from the 2017 release (8 were fitted with new transmitters). One of the birds was identified from leg bands as being a bird that had no tail feathers on release. It survived well and now has a transmitter attached. See Update 8.
- 2 birds from the 2015 release (one fitted with a new transmitter).
- 1 wild male bird (fitted with a transmitter) banded with Green Metal Blue Blue.
A wild male bird (fitted with a transmitter) banded with Green Metal Blue Blue by the Regent Team. Image: Phillip Dubbin.
This close up image highlights why Regents were formerly known as the "Warty-face Honeyeater" Image: Dean Ingwersen.
A total of 70 individual 2017 release birds were recorded since the previous update (this included a wild bird and four 2015 release birds). The Regent Team acknowledge this is a fantastic effort from all involved in the monitoring program.
To-date, 9 of the 2015 release birds have been have been confirmed to survive 12 months post release. A recent sighting becomes the 4th bird to have survived 2 years. It has been 804 days since this bird was last recorded. The good news is that it is a female (six of the nine returnees are male). It is hoped that more birds from the 2015 cohort are yet to be re-discovered.
Tree climbing training undertaken - this training is necessary to deploy video surveillance equipment that will allow monitoring of breeding events later in the year.
A total of 69 individual Regents have been recorded (confirmed alive) since the last update.
- 22 Regents have working transmitters.
- 4 Regents from the 2015 release (one wearing a working transmitter) have been observed.
- One wild Regent (now banded and wearing working transmitter) observed.
None of the transmitters attached at the time of the original April releases are now working (their 10-12 week battery life has expired).
Small groups of Swift Parrots are also being heard (& seen) in the Park.
The monitoring program has found there are two groups of Regent Honeyeaters in the south of the park with a recent breakaway small group being recorded back in the north Map source: Vanessa Giles, DELWP Wodonga GIS Officer.
Update on flowering (Regent Honeyeater food source)
Mugga Ironbark: the mainstay of Regent Honeyeater food so far post release is officially on the wane. Regent's are still finding later flowering trees and there are some small stands of trees still coming into flower.
White Box: after an amazing (rare) four consecutive years of good flowering - there's barely a bud in bloom in 2017 in the Chiltern – Mt Pilot National Park)
Hybrid Box Ironbark: unfortunately there's relatively low "hybrid" tree numbers in the Park. Fortunately, those present are budded up really well with flowering to commence in a month or so. Hybrid flowering is arguably a Regent's preferred nectar source (at least in this Park) - so while few in number our past experience is that it will be perfect for Regents to transition into following the decline of Mugga Ironbark flowering.
Red Box: already commenced flowering in the Park. This species is considered a more marginal nectar source for Regents, however several birds observed only yesterday feeding from blossom - and it's also an exceptional insect resource when flowering.
Yellow Box: prolific early flowering in neighbouring districts e.g. Boorhaman roadsides - another preferred Regent resource but minimal of this species in the Park.
Golden Wattle: the first observation of a Regent in the flowering of our national floral emblem - Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) occurred in the Park on the 1st July.
Assist with monitoring
Help track the Regents – now that the initial intensive post release monitoring has passed the team has scaled back from 7 days per week to 5 days per week (no monitoring on Tuesdays & Saturdays). Any other days you are welcome to join in with the monitoring program. Contact:
- Please Email: Liz Wemyss “Elizabeth.Wemyss@delwp.vic.gov.au” 0417 312 592
- Please ensure you provide your full name, email address, mobile phone number. (Liz will provide essential information including links to free phone apps that must be undertaken/downloaded prior to arriving on site).
- Note: there are spare phones with apps already installed that are available for volunteers that have old, dodgy or no phone - or you can team up with others that have appropriate smart phones.
- How you can get involved with monitoring. f
Report any sightings
Please let the Regent Team know ASAP if you spot any or hear of Regents observations (so they can help follow-up to check for further birds etc). Reports of incidental sightings have proven to be very valuable in the past. Remember to check for bands with binoculars and take & forward photo's were possible.
National survey weekend - 5 & 6 August 2017. This nationwide survey provides a snap shot of the current Regent Honeyeater & Swift Parrot distribution and abundance. Survey form pdf.