August 08, 2018 14:45:48
Wildlife watchers are in a flap after one of Australia’s rarest species of bird, the regent honeyeater, was spotted three times in Queensland in recent weeks.
Urban development and drought have destroyed the habitat of the critically-endangered bird and its population is believed to be as low as 400 in the wild across Australia.
The bird is extinct in South Australia and western Victoria, but is found in woodlands west of the Great Dividing Range.
The three sightings near the Queensland coast have the Australian birdwatching community excited, but also concerned.
In recent weeks, the bird has been spotted at Enoggera Reservoir in The Gap in Brisbane’s west, at Wes Mitchell Park in Tin Can Bay and nearby at Rainbow Beach, both on the Cooloola Coast.
Dean Ingwersen from Birdlife Australia said the regent honeyeater has not been seen that far north in more than 50 years.
“The drought conditions inland have pushed the birds to the coast in search of more food, so these sightings really tell a story about the environmental stress that these birds are dealing with at the moment,” Mr Ingwersen said.
“It is really important for people to understand, that these are a uniquely Australian species.
“You hear people talk about tigers and pandas and other threatened wildlife … regent honeyeaters are more threatened than most of those species and they are literally one step from disappearing.
“They are as Aussie as koalas, they don’t exist anywhere else.”
Birdwatcher Campbell Paine made the Tin Can Bay discovery by accident.
“I just happened to be up there for work and I think this bird was about 50 to 60 metres away and I just snapped two shots, not knowing what it was,” he said.
“I was on the brink of deleting the pictures but decided to run them through a bird identification app and then things got exciting.
“I’m only starting to really understanding how significant the sighting is and how excited people are.”
Taronga Zoo in Sydney has managed a captive breeding program for 25 years and released 100 birds in regional Victoria last year.
Mr Ingwersen said the program will be expanded from Victoria and southern NSW into central NSW in the next 12 months.
“We have a decent captive population but if things go really bad, they are one step from disappearing from the face of the Earth.”
A Senate Committee is seeking submissions ahead of an inquiry into the crisis faced by nearly 500 threatened species, including 200 native birds which could soon be extinct.
August 08, 2018 12:27:21