By Melissa Cunningham & AAP
14 February 2018 — 10:57pm
A critically-endangered bird species, native only to Victoria, has recorded a bumper breeding season, bringing it one step closer to staving off extinction.
Thirty-six Helmeted Honeyeater couples in Melbourne's east have raised 61 fledglings so far, with hope for more before the end of the breeding season in March.
Of the 36 couples, 24 birds are first-time parents.
"This is fantastic news for the recovery program, as it means the birds that are reaching breeding age are replacing lost birds or, in some cases, finding their own breeding sites," Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning ornithologist Bruce Quin told AAP.
"It's also a big positive for the conservation program as it shows there is enough quality habitat to support a population increase."
The small, yellow-tufted species have been steadily making a comeback from near-extinction due to a more than three decade-long conservation program.
The Helmeted Honeyeater is Victoria's bird emblem, but it's survival rate on release from captivity sits at less than 40 per cent.
Last year, numbers of the yellow-breasted bird dwindled to 190.
But, increasing numbers of the species is only half the battle.
When a Helmeted Honeyeater enters the wild, it not only fails to evade its main predators, but often flies directly towards them, resulting in its untimely death.
The reason for this, is that Helmeted Honeyeaters have little understanding of what to fear.