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Helmeted Honeyeaters

Always wanted to know more about the helmeted honeyeater? This critically endangered local bird is the topic of a meeting organised by Wilson Park Australian Plans Society, Sunday April 10th, 2pm at the Beaconsfield Neighbourhood Centre on O’Neill Rd, Beaconsfield.

The helmeted honeyeater has been a focus of conservation groups for many years, and this hard work has paid off – enough birds have hatched in the wild that new populations can be established. This is important to protect the species in the long term. The Helmeted Honeyeater is the only bird deemed to be endemic to Victoria and in 1971 was chosen as this state’s bird emblem. Currently they are the subject of captive breeding programs at Healesville Sanctuary and in Melbourne and Taronga Zoos, as well as a monitored wild population at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve. Bob Anderson will be talking about the work of the Friends of the Helmeted honeyeaters at this reserve.

The birds are the largest of the honeyeater sub species, and are a distinctive looking bird with a bright yellow ear tuffs and crown, with the rest of the bird a darker olive colour. It is very territorial, and a pair will breed up to three times in the July – March breeding season.

They are quite specific in terms of the environment and vegetation they prefer. The birds prefer dense vegetation along riverbanks, subject to flooding and dominated by mountain swamp gum with a dense understorey of scented paperbark and woolly tea-tree, and of sedges and tussock grasses. Key habitat elements include the presence of peeling bark, closely spaced eucalypt stems and dense undergrowth.

The main plant species to be found in the preferred areas include tussock grasses and sedges, as well as: Eucalyptus camphora; E. Ovata; E. viminalis; Leptospermum lanigerum; and Melaleuca squarrosa.

They feed on lerps, invertebrates, nectar and sap. The chicks are fed on insects scavenged from peeling bark and mulch.

They face many threats from loss of habitat and predators such as foxes. The Public Meeting at Beaconsfield Community Centre next Sunday (10 April at 2.00 pm) will explore the possibilities of bringing the Helmeted honeyeater back to the Beaconsfield/Berwick area. There are sections of the Cardinia Creek valley where the vegetation appears to be very suitable, but two key issues remain:

  1. How can we protect the birds from the predators that are already there?
  2. Are there enough local residents prepared to assist the Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery team by, for example, erecting and maintaining fences and/or helping with any supplementary feeding programme?

If you can’t get to the meeting, please consider donating or joining the Friends of the helmeted honeyeater. More information can be found on their website http://www.helmetedhoneyeater.org.au/ . For more information on native plants, please visit http://www.apswilsonparkberwick.org.au

Information for this article sourced from Wikipedia, the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater website, and www.zoo.org.au. Photo courtesy of Alex Smart.

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