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Noisy Miner a major threat to Regent Honeyeater

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services is working on a significant project to protect the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater. The large-scale project aims to protect and improve the habitat for the bird found across the Northern Tablelands.

The project, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, is working to maximise the opportunity for the Regent Honeyeater to continue to exist in the wild.

The greatest threats posed to the Regent Honeyeater include habitat loss and the Noisy Miner.

Paul McDonald, Associate Professor of Animal Behaviour, School of Environmental and Rural Science at the University of New England, has been conducting research into the threat posed by Noisy Miners to the Regent Honeyeater.

The loss, fragmentation and degradation of the Regent Honeyeater’s habitat has resulted in the species being listed as critically endangered. While proving detrimental to the Regent Honeyeater, it has provided the ideal habitat for Noisy Miners. Noisy Miners nest in large trees and forage in open pasture where they source invertebrates in the ground.

“Noisy Miners are highly social as well as being highly aggressive. They live in large colonies, often consisting of over 100 birds made up of family groups working together to exclude other species” notes Paul.

The Regent Honeyeater is very mobile as they seek out flowering events of trees such as yellow box and ironbark. The loss of habitat, as well as the domination by Noisy Miners, is increasing the difficulty faced by the Regent Honeyeaters to find suitable habitat to breed and source adequate food supplies.

“The combined impact has resulted in a significant decline in the Regent Honeyeater population. Through our research, we are attempting to identify the location and population numbers of Noisy Miners in the region,” said Paul.

Paul is using a number of different techniques in order to achieve this including employing molecular tools to identify the movement and dispersal patterns of Noisy Miners through the landscape, as well as how the birds colonise a particular location.

A number of practices are also being trialled to identify ways in which Miners can be removed from habitats. Noisy Miners are a native species of Honeyeater and, as such, are also protected.

“Removing Miners from large areas is not a viable strategy at present, as other Miners tend to occupy the site very quickly, often within a day.  As a result, we are exploring alternative strategies to free up habitat, not just for the Honeyeaters, but also other species of woodland birds whose populations are declining,” said Paul.

In identifying habitat, Paul is working on the Travelling Stock Reserves (TSR) network.

“The reserves provide a wonderful resource in terms of the remaining habitat in the landscape.”

Paul’s research includes over a decade looking at Noisy Miner ecology and behaviour, with a particular focus on the Northern Tablelands commencing in 2010.  In regards to Miner removal, Paul has been working with Northern Tablelands Local Land Services and TSRs since 2015.

“This is an ongoing issue. Replanting and minimising open areas in order for them to become less hospitable to Miners, is vital. Protecting remnant woodlands and reversing some of the clearing will also help the cause. It is crucial that these significant projects implemented by Northern Tablelands Local Land Services continue if we are to ensure the survival of the Regent Honeyeater”, said Paul.

If you are interested in contributing to the survival of the Regent Honeyeater, Northern Tablelands Local Land Services has funding available for habitat restoration projects on-farm. Please contact Environment Team Leader, Leith Hawkins, on 0408 912 447.

Media contact: Annabelle Monie on 0429 626 326.