Xanthomyza phrygia


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Xanthomyza phrygia
Species Authority: (Shaw, 1794)
Common Name(s):
English Regent Honeyeater
Anthochaera phrygia phrygia Christidis and Boles (2008)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2bce ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-11-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Tzaros, C.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Garnett, S., McClellan, R., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.
The species is classified as Critically Endangered because its population is inferred to have undergone extremely rapid declines over the past three generations (24 years). These declines have been driven primarily by drought, compounded by habitat loss caused by historic clearance for agriculture, and possibly competition with other native species, particularly Noisy Miner.

2012 Critically Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Xanthomyza phrygia is endemic to south-east Australia, where it now has an extremely patchy distibution within a range stretching from south-east Queensland to central Victoria. Most sightings come from a few sites in north-eastern Victoria, along the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, New South Wales, and the central coast of New South Wales. It has become extinct in South Australia and has declined to vagrant status in central and western Victoria, and Gippsland. Historically, the species occurred from Adelaide to 100 km north of Brisbane within 300 km of the coast, and was formerly very numerous with 'great' or 'immense' numbers recorded in the 19th century (Higgins et al. 2001). Birds concentrate at a small number of sites when breeding, but numbers fluctuate greatly between years and sites, and movements outside the breeding season are poorly understood. Key breeding areas are the Chiltern section of Chiltern–Mt Pilot National Park, in northeastern Victoria (Menkhorst 2003), Capertee Valley in central eastern New South Wales and Bundarra-Barraba region in northern NSW (Oliver and Lollback 2010) with a few birds breeding in other areas, such as the Wangaratta-Mansfield region in Victoria, Warrumbungle National Park, Pilliga forests, the Mudgee-Wollar region, and the Hunter and Clarence Valleys (NSW Scientific Committee 2010). In 1997 the population in New South Wales was estimated at a maximum of 1,000 birds but far fewer birds have been recorded since, with maxima of just 40 there in 2009 and 80+ in the Hunter Valley in 2012 (BirdLife Australia 2012), while in Victoria there are probably fewer than ten pairs (Garnett et al. 2011). While the species has regional variation in calls (Powys 2010), banded birds have been recorded moving between all main sites so the species is considered to have a single subpopulation (Garnett et al. 2011).

Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The breeding population was previously estimated at 1,500 mature individuals, roughly equivalent to 2,200-2,300 individuals in total, but following very rapid declines there were thought to be just 350-400 mature individuals remaining in 2010 (Garnett et al. 2011).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It is usually observed within box-ironbark eucalypt associations, seeming to prefer wetter, more fertile lowland sites. It also uses riparian forests of river she-oak Casuarina cunninghamiana in New South Wales, especially for breeding. The other major environment used regularly is wet lowland coastal forests dominated by Swamp Mahogany Eucalyptus robusta or Spotted Gum Corymbia maculata. It requires a diet of nectar, principally from a few key species such as Yellow Box E. melliodora, White Box E. albens and Mugga Ironbark E. sideroxylon, as well as insects, particularly when breeding (Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team 1998, C. Tzaros in litt. 2003). It also feeds on sugary exudates. In poor years, it is not clear whether birds fail to nest or shift elsewhere to breed. Nests are usually built in the crowns of tall trees, mostly eucalypts and sometimes among mistletoe (Garnett et al. 2011).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): About 75% of its habitat has been cleared for agricultural and residential development. Much of the preferred lowland habitat on the most fertile and productive sites has been cleared or substantially modified and this has resulted in poorer and unreliable nectar-sources through the reduction of large mature trees (C. Tzaros in litt. 2003). Remnants, including much of what currently exists in the conservation reserve system, have been heavily cut-over and degraded, and this practice is continuing in many areas, including hardwood production forests. These remnants are highly fragmented and often degraded by removal of larger trees and ongoing declines in tree health. The recent dramatic population decline coincides with a 12-year period of reduced rainfall in south-eastern Australia. Fragmentation has apparently advantaged more aggressive honeyeaters, particularly Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala and Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus which may be excluding the species (Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team 1998, C. Tzaros in litt. 2003, Garnett et al. 2011). What was once a very large population has declined so quickly that a severe loss of genetic variability must now be a threat (Garnett et al. 2011).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
Surveys of range and abundance are conducted annually. Detailed research has been conducted on breeding biology. Restrictions have been placed on grazing and timber extraction at some important sites. Extensive replanting of habitat trees has occurred. Captive colonies have been established, and in 2008 27 birds (fitted with radio transmitters) were released in Chiltern National Park (Anon. 2008). A recovery plan is being implemented. In 2012 50 birds were recorded at a single property which had been placed under a covenant by BirdLife Australia’s Woodland Birds for Biodiversity Project in 2011 to protect its woodland vegetation (BirdLife Australia 2012). Many of these birds were colour-banded to help monitor their future movements.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor wild birds at all recently used sites. Determine trends using existing sightings database and bird atlas project, largely through assistance of community-based surveys coordinated by the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team and the Threatened Bird Network. Determine movement patterns and degree of isolation between breeding populations. Determine impact of M. melanocephala and P. corniculatus on population stability. Establish and maintain a reintroduced/translocated population. Prepare regional guidelines for habitat management, and research silvicultural techniques to accelerate maturity in key food species. Continue to restore habitat at a landscape scale and support and develop captive breeding programmes. Protect all regularly-used breeding and feeding sites on public land including Travelling Stock Routes. Conduct a public education programme. Determine and monitor habitat quality. Continue to support conservation management through the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team and its operations groups. Continue to support community, particularly landholder, involvement in the recovery programme. Study genetic variability, particularly the extent to which the captive population is representative of wild variability.

Citation: BirdLife International 2013. Xanthomyza phrygia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 31 March 2015.
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