The Regent Honeyeater is a striking and distinctive, medium-sized, black and yellow honeyeater with a sturdy, curved bill. Adults weigh 35 – 50 grams, are 20 – 24 cm long and have a wing-span of 30 cm. Its head, neck, throat, upper breast and bill are black and the back and lower breast are pale lemon in colour with a black scalloped pattern. Its flight and tail feathers are edged with bright yellow. There is a characteristic patch of dark pink or cream-coloured facial-skin around the eye. Sexes are similar, though males are larger, darker and have larger patch of bare facial-skin. The call is a soft metallic bell-like song; birds are most vocal in non-breeding season.
The Regent Honeyeater mainly inhabits temperate woodlands and open forests of the inland slopes of south-east Australia. Birds are also found in drier coastal woodlands and forests in some years. Once recorded between Adelaide and the central coast of Queensland, its range has contracted dramatically in the last 30 years to between north-eastern Victoria and south-eastern Queensland. There are only three known key breeding regions remaining: north-east Victoria (Chiltern-Albury), and in NSW at Capertee Valley and the Bundarra-Barraba region. In NSW the distribution is very patchy and mainly confined to the two main breeding areas and surrounding fragmented woodlands. In some years flocks converge on flowering coastal woodlands and forests.
Habitat and ecology
- The Regent Honeyeater is a flagship threatened woodland bird whose conservation will benefit a large suite of other threatened and declining woodland fauna. The species inhabits dry open forest and woodland, particularly Box-Ironbark woodland, and riparian forests of River Sheoak. Regent Honeyeaters inhabit woodlands that support a significantly high abundance and species richness of bird species. These woodlands have significantly large numbers of mature trees, high canopy cover and abundance of mistletoes.
- Every few years non-breeding flocks are seen foraging in flowering coastal Swamp Mahogany and Spotted Gum forests, particularly on the central coast and occasionally on the upper north coast. Birds are occasionally seen on the south coast.
- In the last 10 years Regent Honeyeaters have been recorded in urban areas around Albury where woodlands tree species such as Mugga Ironbark and Yellow Box were planted 20 years ago.
- The Regent Honeyeater is a generalist forager, although it feeds mainly on the nectar from a relatively small number of eucalypts that produce high volumes of nectar. Key eucalypt species include Mugga Ironbark, Yellow Box, White Box and Swamp Mahogany. Other tree species may be regionally important. For example the Lower Hunter Spotted Gum forests have recently been demonstrated to support regular breeding events. Flowering of associated species such as Thin-leaved Stringybark Eucalyptus eugenioides and other Stringybark species, and Broad-leaved Ironbark E. fibrosa can also contribute important nectar flows at times. Nectar and fruit from the mistletoes Amyema miquelii, A. pendula and A. cambagei are also utilised. When nectar is scarce lerp and honeydew can comprise a large proportion of the diet. Insects make up about 15% of the total diet and are important components of the diet of nestlings.
- Colour-banding of Regent Honeyeater has shown that the species can undertake large-scale nomadic movements in the order of hundreds of kilometres. However, the exact nature of these movements is still poorly understood. It is likely that movements are dependent on spatial and temporal flowering and other resource patterns. To successfully manage the recovery of this species a full understanding of the habitats used in the non-breeding season is critical.
- There are three known key breeding areas, two of them in NSW – Capertee Valley and Bundarra-Barraba regions. The species breeds between July and January in Box-Ironbark and other temperate woodlands and riparian gallery forest dominated by River Sheoak. Regent Honeyeaters usually nest in horizontal branches or forks in tall mature eucalypts and Sheoaks. Also nest in mistletoe haustoria.
- An open cup-shaped nest is constructed of bark, grass, twigs and wool by the female. Two or three eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 14 days. Nestlings are brooded and fed by both parents at an average rate of 23 times per hour and fledge after 16 days. Fledglings fed by both parents 29 times per hour.