Asia Minute: The Right Song Could Save a Species

Mar 18, 2021

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists hundreds of threatened and endangered species around Hawaii---from plants and snails to reptiles and birds. In Australia, scientists are trying to save one bird by helping to preserve its song.

The regent honey-eater of Australia is critically endangered—scientists believe only a few hundred of the once plentiful songbirds remain in the world.

And there’s another problem, many of those still in the wild seem to not know the natural song of their species.

Instead, they’ve picked up songs of other birds, because there aren’t enough older regent honey-eaters around for younger birds to learn from.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new study out from the Australian National University.

Doctor Ross Crates led the study. He told the BBC “they don’t get the chance to hang around with other honeyeaters and learn what they’re supposed to sound like.”

This poses a whole other layer of issues when it comes to mating season.

Dr. Crates told Sky News Australia “we think the females are avoiding breeding and nesting with males that sing unusual songs.”

Dr. Crates and his colleagues are trying to help – playing recordings of regent honey-eaters singing the species’ original songs to young males who have been bred at an aviary, as well as some that were caught in the wild.

Those birds will be released, and scientists hope they’ll be carrying a new song — along with hopes for a regeneration of the species.