Thanks to the work of our scientists, we’ve reached a major milestone in our efforts to protect Victoria’s bird emblem, the Helmeted Honeyeater. For the first time, hybrid Helmeted Honeyeaters have been released in the wild. Their role is to re-establish a healthy Helmeted Honeyeater population at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve in the Upper Yarra Valley.

The project is addressing Helmeted Honeyeater inbreeding and increasing its chances of survival.

In 1989, only 50 Helmeted Honeyeaters existed in the wild. While early recovery work lifted their numbers to 230, inbreeding was an issue. The research team, led by Professor Paul Sunnucks from Monash University and Dr Katherine Harrisson from the DELWP’s Arthur Rylah Institute and Latrobe University, discovered the inbred birds didn’t live as long and didn’t breed as successfully. The team did some amazing research. It was the first time anyone had studied an entire population’s breeding history to understand how inbreeding was affecting them.

To tackle the issue, the recovery team bred Helmeted Honeyeaters with their close relative, the Gippsland Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. That wouldn’t have been possible without the research team’s work. Although it was rare, this cross breeding used to occur naturally. It stopped when land clearing isolated these honeyeaters from one another.

The Victorian Government is investing $3 million over two years to protect our faunal emblems - the Helmeted Honeyeater and Leadbeaters Possum. Universities, local councils and the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater are working with Victorian government agencies to rescue this beautiful bird.  

The Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater involves 140 volunteers who receive training. They help feed the birds at Yellingbo Conservation Reserve. They also look after an indigenous plant nursery. So, if you’re interested and can volunteer at least once a month, you can get involved too.

If you’d like to learn more about the research team’s work, contact the Arthur Rylah Institute

Related links

Threatened bird network

Volunteer with Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater

See the research in full

Helmeted Honeyeater

Page last updated: 24/10/19