SYDNEY, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- One of Australia's rarest birds, the regent honeyeater, has been spotted at least three times in recent weeks, fueling excitement among birdwatchers but also concerns about increasing stress on wildlife habitats, according to animal conservation groups.
The critically endangered black-yellow bird was found near the Queensland state coast and has not been seen that far north in more than half a century, local media quoted Dean Ingwersen of conservation group BirdLife Australia as saying on Wednesday.
"The drought conditions inland have pushed the birds to the coast in search of more food, so these sightings really tell a story about the environmental stress that these birds are dealing with at the moment," the ABC news channel quoted Ingwersen as saying.
Urbanization and the dry weather have severely impacted the habitat of the species and its numbers in the wild are expected to be as low as 400 across the country.
The bird is now extinct in South Australia and the west of Victoria state, according to local reports.
"You hear people talk about tigers and pandas and other threatened wildlife ... regent honeyeaters are more threatened than most of those species and they are literally one step from disappearing," said Ingwersen.
"They are as Aussie as koalas, they don't exist anywhere else."
Taronga Zoo in New South Wales state capital Sydney has been running a captive breeding program for the birds, releasing some of them in regional Victoria last year, and Ingwersen said there are now plans to expand the program to other areas.