Homes for honeyeaters – replanting Dry Forests


Over the last 200 years of European settlement, all the best farming land has been cleared for agriculture and lots of forests have been cleared for the wood, the timber, and in all cases that’s been taking out the very best of the timber. The very richest farming country is of course where it was the richest habitat for the animals too, it had more food possibilities. Out on the plains for example there’s only 3 ½ percent of the Grey Box woodlands that are left – 3 ½ percent and all of the species, not just the rare ones, are trying to make a living in the same place.

Over the last 14 years our project has been working very hard to restore the little bits of habitat that are remaining, like patches of trees in farmers' paddocks, trees along road sides, trees along rivers and creeks. Wherever there are existing habitat areas, and they’re often very degraded, we fence them to keep the sheep and the cows out of there and then we can plant extra trees to make these areas bigger and denser, better habitat for the threatened animals like the Regent Honeyeater.

The Regent Honeyeater’s a beautiful black, yellow and white bird, with really broad, bright, lemon flashes on its wings and its tail, about the size of a Blackbird, something like that. One of its strongholds has been in the box-ironbark country because ironbark trees flower in winter when there’s nothing else flowering. So if you are a honeyeater where do you go? You look for the nearest ironbarks. It also needs forests that have a good understorey that’s dense enough with shrubs where it can hide and not be beaten up by more aggressive honeyeaters. That’s a very important part.

Forests aren’t just trees, they have many other layers of taller shrubs and shorter shrubs and ground flora and grasses and things like that and each of those provides some extra habitat possibilities. We’ve worked for 14 years in the Lurg Hills east of Benalla in north-east Victoria and that’s meant working with a lot of schools in the area to help propagate the plants, over 400 000 we’ve propagated and planted, and we have achieved more than a 1000 hectares of habitat restored. That’s been tremendous, we know it’s worked because we have threatened birds living in areas that were planted only five or six years ago and some of those birds are even breeding there.

Comments (5)

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melanie 10 November, 2009 08:55
I'm glad the birds are returning and even breeding. It's very hopeful.
Steve Moore 10 November, 2009 17:22
Interesting segment. Well done. And love your work, Ray and team.
Fiona S 15 April, 2011 14:14
I have some ironbarks near my house but there is nothing planted under them. Can you suggest what would be good to plant underneath?
Discovery Centre 17 April, 2011 15:57

Fiona - Although botanical research is not something Museum Victoria has expertise in, we have done some research on this subject and have found the following information that may be of some use.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has a list of native flora found in the Turpentine-Ironbark Forest (see the following link for a pdf file containing a list of species:

Sandi Worrall-Hart 24 June, 2016 20:56
Hi, I am enjoying the info on the Melbourne Museum site. May I suggest a segment on the Helmeted Honeyeater, found only in Victoria. This native bird has been brought back from the brink of extinction by a very successful recovery program.
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About this Video

Ray Thomas, Regent Honeyeater Project, explains the benefits of tree planting to link isolated patches of forest across a landscape.
Length: 02:54

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