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Research Reveals Role of Song in Bird Conservation

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: June 22, 2021 8:00 am

Regent Honeyeater Research Taronga Zoo

A regent honeyeater which is part of the breeding program for its threatened species at Taronga Zoo Sydney

Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo Sydney

New research published in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science has shown the importance of playing recorded songs to young honeyeaters before release to the wild.

The paper was a collaborative effort between UNSW, BirdLife Australia, DELWP, Zoological Society of London, School of Biological Sciences, Monash University and University College London. It looked at data gathered over the last decade from the successful breeding program for the regent honeyeater at Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

The regent honeyeater is a critically endangered species with less than 350 living in the wild.

Key findings from the research showed that 'song tutoring' where birds are played recordings of their calls before release increases long term survival. Another important finding is that birds raised in aviaries with other birds have higher survival rates as they learn how to compete for food.


Parents which have only produced one clutch also produce chicks with higher survivability rates when compared to those which raised multiple clutches.

Regent Honeyeater Research Taronga Zoo

A regent honeyeater which is part of the breeding program for its threatened species at Taronga Zoo Sydney

Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo Sydney

Report author Dr Joy Tripovich, behavioural biologist at the Taronga Conservation Society and adjunct associate lecturer at UNSW, said: “Taronga’s breeding program has been credited with slowing the decline of the Regent Honeyeater.


“Conservation breeding programs are an absolute last line of defense for a species that is on the brink of extinction. These projects are complex and resource-intensive so we need to make sure they are the very best they can be."


“Few breeding programs have ever been reviewed in such an extensive way before and this research will help us shape it in this critical period as we fight to save the Regent Honeyeater from extinction," finished Tripovich.

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Taronga’s Conservation and Recovery Programs Manager, Andrew Elphinstone, said: “Zoos are increasingly becoming essential in the survival of critically endangered species. With only 350 Regent Honeyeaters left in the wild, it’s important that conservation and research experts work together to improve their chances as much as possible.


“The findings of this research will not only benefit Regent Honeyeaters but will inform other conservation and breeding programs at Taronga’s Zoos and around the world.”

Regent honeyeaters have declined from 1,500 in 1992 to less than 350 today. While their range once stretched from Queensland to South Australia they are now restricted to Victoria and New South Wales.

Since 2008 over 300 birds have been produced as part of the captive breeding project for the species.

Regent Honeyeater Research Taronga Zoo

A regent honeyeater which is part of the breeding program for its threatened species at Taronga Zoo Sydney

Photo Credit: Taronga Zoo Sydney

Learn more about Regent Honeyeaters here – Regent Honeyeater Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about Taronga Zoo Sydney on their website – Taronga Zoo Sydney

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