Regent honeyeater

Xanthomyza phrygia

TAXONOMY

Merops phrygius Shaw, 1794, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Regente Pajaro

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Warty-faced honeyeater; French: Mélephage régent; German: Warzenhonigfresser; Spanish: Pájaro Azúcar Real.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

9 in (22.5 cm); 1.4-1.6 oz (39-45 g). Dark head with orange eye patch; dark wings and tail with yellowish tips; white under-parts with black scaly pattern.

DISTRIBUTION

Southeastern Australia from near Brisbane to central Victoria. Vagrant into Adelaide region and in many parts of range. Main breeding populations are on northwest slopes of New South Wales, west of the Blue Mountains, and in northeast Victoria.

HABITAT

Open forests and woodlands, especially with ironbark, riparian woodland, coastal heathland, and tall eucalyptus forest.

BEHAVIOR

Often occur in small groups, formally in large flocks, and may roost communally. Active and sometimes aggressive at flowering trees, but also unobtrusive at times. Vocalizations include bubbling, tinkling, soft song, bill snaps, trilling, mewing, and sometimes mimicry of other honeyeaters. Display complex movements that involve some regularity, particularly to breeding areas, but also more nomadic outside breeding season.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Nectar of eucalyptus, especially ironbarks, mistletoes, banksia, grevillea, and other shrubs. Sometimes eat fruit as well as lerp and manna. Insects are taken from foliage and by sallying.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Breeding season July to January, but mostly September to November, occasionally at other times. May be loosely colonial. Nest of sticks and bark in high branches and forks of tall trees or in mistletoes. Clutch of two to three eggs are incubated for

14 days. Young are fed insects, nectar, and lerp and fledge at about 16 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Endangered. Populations have declined greatly in abundance during the twentieth century, with contraction in breeding range out of South Australia and western and central Victoria. Some critical habitats are protected or are being reestablished, but habitats and foods used in nonbreeding season are poorly known, which makes conservation difficult. Breed well in captivity, and releases of captive-bred birds into the wild have exhibited short-term success.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Formerly shot as a pest in orchards, but their striking coloration and endangered status make them high profile birds. The New South Wales town of Barraba has adopted the regent honeyeater as its emblem. ♦

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