SYDNEY, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- With the release of 50 conservation-bred regent honeyeaters, the wild population of one of Australia's rarest birds is expected to have a further boost.
The release of the birds on Wonnarua Country in the Lower Hunter Valley, announced on Sunday, was the second large-scale release of conservation-bred regent honeyeaters undertaken by the New South Wales (NSW) government.
"We're releasing conservation-bred birds to boost numbers in the wild as part of a national effort to save this critically endangered species," said NSW Minister for Environment James Griffin.
The regent honeyeater used to flock in thousands from Queensland to South Australia, but now there are only around 300 birds left in the wild.
"We recently learnt that wild regent honeyeaters are losing their song culture because there are fewer older birds for young regent honeyeaters to learn from," said Griffin.
"The ability for the regent honeyeater to sing and call is vital to attracting a mate, and the introduction of the Taronga Zoo-bred birds will give these wild birds the chance to learn their songs again, find mates and ensure the species can survive and thrive into the future."
A total of 39 birds will be monitored for up to 10 weeks by BirdLife Australia to see how they engage and form mixed flocks with the wild birds.
"Monitoring will involve a small radio-tracking crew, following transmitter signals and recording individual bird locations and behavior to understand survival, breeding attempts and dispersal patterns," said Mick Roderick, NSW woodland bird program manager at BirdLife Australia.
With the support of a breeding program, led by Taronga Conservation Society Australia, BirdLife Australia and the NSW government's Saving our Species program, almost 600 regent honeyeaters have been bred at Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo since 2000.
To help the zoo-bred regent honeyeaters learn the "love song", they will be housed in aviaries with wild adult birds to be exposed to the wild regent honeyeaters song prior to release. ■