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Regent honeyeater

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The regent honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia) is a critically endangered bird endemic to South Eastern Australia. It is commonly considered a flagship species within its range, with the efforts going into its conservation having positive effects on many other species that share its habitat. Recent genetic research suggests it is closely related to the wattlebirds.

Regent honeyeater
Regent honeyeater.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Meliphagidae
Genus: Anthochaera
A. phrygia
Binomial name
Anthochaera phrygia
(Shaw, 1794)
Regent Honeyeater Distribution.jpg
Distribution of the regent honeyeater, see file for more details.
  • Xanthomyza phrygia


First described by the naturalist George Shaw in 1794, the regent honeyeater was moved to Anthochaera in 1827 by the naturalists Nicholas Aylward Vigors and Thomas Horsfield.[2] It was known as Xanthomyza phrygia for many years, the genus erected by William John Swainson in 1837. DNA analysis shows that its ancestry is in fact nested within the wattlebird genus Anthochaera. The ancestor of the regent honeyeater split from a lineage that gave rise to the red and yellow wattlebirds. The little and western wattlebirds arose from another lineage that diverged earlier.[3]


The neck and head are glossy black. The breast is covered with contrasting pale yellow speckles, and the feathers in the tail and wings are black and bright yellow.


It feeds primarily on nectar from eucalyptus and mistletoe species, and to a lesser extent on insects and their honeydew.[4] It also feeds on both native and cultivated fruit.[5]


Breeding mostly occurs from August to January, during the southern spring and summer. The breeding season appears to correspond with the flowering of key eucalyptus and mistletoe species. Two or three eggs are laid in a cup-shaped nest.[5][6] Nest success, and productivity of successful nests, has been found to be low in this species with nest surveillance revealing high predation by a range of bird and arboreal mammal species. There is also a male bias to the adult sex ratio, with an estimated 1.18 males per female.[7]


The regent honeyeater was once common in wooded areas of eastern Australia, especially along the inland slopes of the Great Dividing Range. It once could be found as far west as Adelaide, but is now gone from South Australia and western Victoria.[8] The population is now scattered, with the three main breeding areas being the Bundarra-Barraba area and Capertee Valley of New South Wales, and north-eastern Victoria.[9]

Important Bird AreasEdit

BirdLife International has identified the following sites as being important for regent honeyeaters:[10]

New South Wales

In July and August 2018, pairs of birds were seen at three sites in south-eastern Queensland. A spokesman for BirdLife Australia said this was indicative of the current drought conditions in northern New South Wales placing pressure on the birds to find more favourable food sources.[11]

Conservation statusEdit

The regent honeyeater is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List,[1] and as endangered under both Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Queensland's Nature Conservation Act 1992. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010, compiled by researchers from Charles Darwin University and published in October 2011 by the CSIRO, added the regent honeyeater to the "critically endangered" list, giving habitat loss as the major threat.[12]



  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2013). "Xanthomyza phrygia". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Vigors & Horsfield 1827, pp. 320-321.
  3. ^ Driskell, Amy C.; Christidis, Les (2004). "Phylogeny and Evolution of the Australo-Papuan Honeyeaters (Passeriformes, Meliphagidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 31 (3): 943–60. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.10.017. PMID 15120392.
  4. ^ Environment, jurisdiction=Commonwealth of Australia; corporateName=Department of the. "Anthochaera phrygia — Regent Honeyeater". Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  5. ^ a b "Regent Honeyeater | BirdLife Australia". Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  6. ^ "National Recovery Plan for the Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia)" (PDF). Department of the Environment. April 2016. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  7. ^ Crates, R.; Rayner, L.; Stojanovic, D.; Webb, M.; Terauds, A.; Heinsohn, R. (2019). "Contemporary breeding biology of critically endangered Regent Honeyeaters: implications for conservation". Ibis. 161 (3): 521–532. doi:10.1111/ibi.12659.
  8. ^ Siossian, Emma (28 March 2019). "Conservationists push to save critically endangered regent honeyeater's only known breeding site from development". ABC Mid North Coast. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  9. ^ Menkhorst, Peter; Schedvin, Natasha & Geering, David (May 1999). "Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia) Recovery Plan 1999-2003". Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australia. Archived from the original on 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2016-11-08.
  10. ^ BirdLife International. (2011). Important Bird Areas. Downloaded from on 2012-01-02.
  11. ^ Regent honeyeater 'one step from extinction' sighted in Queensland, Shelley Lloyd, ABC News Online, 2018-08-08
  12. ^ Garnett, Stephen; Szabo, Judit; Dutson, Guy (2011). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. Collingwood, Vic: CSIRO. ISBN 978-0-643-10368-9.

Cited textEdit