Conservationists say the discovery of critically endangered regent honeyeaters in south-east Victoria is a promising sign of the bird species' recovery.
The two captive-bred birds were found in Stratford, in Gippsland this year.
The birds had travelled more than 200 kilometres after being released from their Chiltern breeding program, in north-east Victoria in late 2017.
An additional bird from the breeding program had been located crossing the Great Dividing Range after it's released in 2015.
A Gippsland garden discovery
The regent honeyeaters were tracked and identified by their unique combination of coloured leg bands.
The pair known as 'Blue White' and 'Blue Orange' were part of a captive-release program that took place over a period of eight months in 2017, which involved a team of scientists and volunteers.
In January, 'Blue White' was found in the backyard of Stratford local, Kim Jacobs, and two months later, it was joined by a new bird, 'Blue Orange'.
"We keep a pretty good eye on the birds visiting us but a few weeks ago we saw a new species perched near our bird bath and thought 'that's different'," Ms Jacobs said.
"It has been such a thrill to have had 'Blue White' visiting our garden for well over a month, but to now have two birds here is fantastic."
Building on numbers
The discovery of the pair is exciting for conservationists working to protect the species, whose numbers have been estimated to be as low as 400 in the wild due to the clearing of their woodland habitat, amongst other threats.
"Some years, there'll be no flowers, no blossoms, and no nectar, so they have to be able to move long distances to find that," BirdLife Australia's national regent honeyeater recovery coordinator, Dean Ingwersen said.
"So to see these birds be able to move long distances is encouraging. Hopefully that is all part of the recovery of the species that we're working towards," he said.
But there's still a long journey ahead to see these critically endangered honeyeaters flourishing again.
Mr Ingwersen said small discoveries like the Gippsland pair shows that the efforts from volunteers and scientists with habitat restoration, community engagement, and the management of competitors all helps prevent the species from becoming extinct.
"These combined results are encouraging and give us hope that the plight of the bird can still be turned around."
The community can report regent honeyeater sightings to BirdLife Australia on 1800 621 056 with details including location, date, time, leg band colour combinations (if present) and photographs (where possible), or you can find out more information on the BirdLife Australia website through the Woodland Birds for Biodiversity program.