The Forgotten Song: Saving the Regent Honeyeater
CSIRO Publishing, 2023
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Once upon a time, the soft warbling melody of the regent honeyeater would “bounce of trees, skim across billabongs and echo through woodlands.” But, as “trees turned to towers, billabongs to buildings, and the woodlands to carparks…and forests turned to farms” many birds flew away, never to return. But when Regent felt the urge to sing the song to attract a mate that had been passed from father to son for generations, he couldn’t remember it. And there was no one to remind him. He searched the forest listening to the songs of others for a hint of the tune, he even tried out a few of them himself, but no one came…
How will the species survive if he can’t remember the tune, and have a son of his own in time…
Once found frequently in the woodlands of south-eastern Australia, the regent honeyeater is now found only in three regions – around Chiltern-Albury in north-east Victoria, and at Capertee Valley and the Bundarra-Barraba region in NSW – and is officially listed as “critically endangered” with an estimated overall population of just 350-400, probably less. So this lyrical, beautifully illustrated story is another brilliant wake-up call for young readers not only about the impact of urban sprawl on this species in particular, but on our birdlife generally. Accompanied by some basic facts and a timeline stretching back to First Nations peoples, young readers learn about the importance of bird-song in perpetuating a species and how the loss of potential mates can have devastating consequences. But all is not lost and there are programs in place to preserve and increase those that are left including a national plan largely co=ordinated by Birdlife Australia.
As with all these publications for young readers, once again the plight of a likely-unknown species is brought to their attention, offering an insight not only into the diversity of Australia’s indigenous wildlife but also the threats they face and what even young individuals like them can do about it. So even if this is not a species relevant to their particular region, little ones can investigate those that are and what it is that they might be able to do (or not) to ensure there is a future for them.
Both Coral and Jess have provided a unique approach for developing an awareness, if not an understanding, that is engaging, helping all of us to realise that those bird calls we hear every day but take for granted, have both meaning and purpose for the birds that sing them. They are more than just melodies for our pleasure.
ABC News, July 1, 2023