Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

Demography of the Helmeted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix)

Ian J. Smales A E , Bruce Quin B , Peter W. Menkhorst C and Donald C. Franklin D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Biosis Research Pty Ltd, 38 Bertie Street., Port Melbourne, Vic. 3207, Australia.

B Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, PO Box 264, Woori Yallock, Vic. 3139, Australia.

C Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, PO Box 137, Heidelberg, Vic. 3084, Australia.

D School for Environmental Research, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: ismales@biosisresearch.com.au

Emu 109(4) 352-359 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU09002
Submitted: 15 January 2009  Accepted: 24 October 2009   Published: 9 December 2009


Understanding the demography of threatened taxa is essential for formulating effective management strategies for their conservation and for making predictions about their long-term prospects. With fewer than 25 breeding pairs in the current wild population, the Helmeted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix) is one of the most threatened birds in Australia. Demography of the sole wild population of the Helmeted Honeyeater was investigated by monitoring 526 nests between 1984 and 1996 and 324 colour-banded birds between 1984 and 2008. Throughout the study, the population was effectively closed, there being no evidence of immigration or emigration. Mean survivorship of nests from laying to fledging was 0.17, and mean survivorship of juveniles (from 40 days to 1 year of age) was 0.63. Weighted mean annual survivorship of adult females and males was 0.75 and 0.81 respectively. The population showed little between-year variation in annual productivity and survivorship, with sufficient recruitment for positive population growth. In general, the population dynamics of the Helmeted Honeyeater fit the pattern of an ‘old endemic’ Australian passerine, with low survival of eggs and chicks, extended parental care of juveniles and high survivorship of juveniles and adults. Eggs and chicks that would not naturally survive are a resource that may be used to assist recovery of the population.

Additional keywords: conservation, passerine, population, survivorship, threatened species.


Throughout more than 24 years of this investigation, numerous people have contributed to the field program. Many of them were volunteer members of Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater Inc. and we especially appreciate their assistance. Guidance has been provided since 1989 by the Helmeted Honeyeater Recovery Team. Special thanks are due to Mike Clarke and Neil Murray for discussions and insights into honeyeater biology. Staff of Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment at Woori Yallock have assisted throughout and many staff of Healesville Sanctuary helped with monitoring of the wild population and provision of veterinary assistance. Mike McCarthy, Mark Burgman, Peter Temple-Smith, Hugh Ford and David Paton variously supervised and provided valuable comment on I. Smales’ M.Sc. thesis, part of which formed the early basis of this paper.


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