For the past few years a group of volunteers from Birdlife Mackay and Mackay Conservation Group have been spending many hours in the bush at Cathu and Crediton keeping an eye in one of our unique birds.
The Eungella Honeyeater is a small, elusive bird and only found in the woodlands and rainforest west of Mackay.
It was only in the early 1980’s that ornithologists realised that the Eungella Honeyeater was a seperate species. Animals with very restricted ranges are vulnerable if conditions change suddenly due to natural or human actions. The Eungella Honeyeater has the smallest range of any bird in Australia.
At first scientists estimated that there were 2500 Eungella Honeyeaters in the forests west of Mackay but further surveys have raised concerns that the number has declined. Eungella Honeyeaters were once commonly sighted in places such as Finch Hatton Gorge but these days it’s population appears to be decreasing.
Nobody is sure why that is,. It could be that at the time the bird was first counted there was an abundance of flowers and the population was high compared with today. Another theory is that logging is reducing the number of trees that the birds can feed on.
Volunteers, led by Daryl Barnes from Wildlife Mackay, have been out in the field week after week counting the number of birds in that visit a number of research sites. If the weather predictions are correct, this summer could be particularly dry and hot due to an El Nino event. Hot dry conditions encourage trees to produce more flowers which could see the number of Eungella Honeyeaters return to the peak of the early 1980’s. If there is plenty of food available and numbers are continuing to decline the it may be that logging needs to be reassessed.
by Peter McCallum, Mackay Conservation Group