Young Laysan albatross practice courtship


This video from Kauai island in Hawaii says about itself:

28 Feb 2014

The afternoon for our Laysan albatross nestling started with a quick feed from the male parent Kaluakane. What happened afterwards was a surprise; two banded non-breeding albatross (K405 and K256) were caught on the cam practicing courtship in front of our nestling. An un-banded non-breeder also joins in the dance. This clip shows highlights from the courtship, the entire event continued for almost 30 minutes.

To watch the Laysan Albatross cam live visit here.

For regular updates see our Twitter feed.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes about this video:

The young birds are between about 3 and 7 years old. They have no nests of their own and are just starting to learn their elaborate courtship dance—and this afternoon they decided to practice on camera. It’s a bewildering, sometimes ear-splitting set of head-bobbing, bill-clacking, whinnying, moaning, preening, and nuzzling.

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World’s oldest bird has baby


Albatross Wisdom and her baby, photo by Ann Bell/USFWS

From Business Insider:

At 63, The World’s Oldest Wild Bird Just Had A Baby

Jennifer Welsh

Feb. 7, 2014, 2:37 PM

At 63 years young, the oldest wild bird that we know of, Wisdom the Laysan albatross, has had another baby!

Almost exactly a year after her last chick was born, the new baby started cracking out of its shell. Refuge workers first spotted the baby bird on Feb. 4, according to the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The birds live on the on the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in the Hawaiian archipelago. They arrive every year to mate, build a nest, lay an egg and incubate it, then hatch and brood their chick. The birds mate for life and take turns sitting on the egg.

It takes 365 days to lay and incubate the egg, then raise the chick. The albatross only lays one egg a year and then usually takes a breeding year off. But Wisdom amazingly, usually has a new chick each year.

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Albatross nest webcam on the Internet


This video is called Dancing Laysan Albatrosses.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Watch an Albatross Family Grow—Live From Hawaii

We’re betting this is the smallest albatross you’ll ever see: a three-day-old Laysan Albatross chick on our newest Bird Cam. Two months ago, its parents built a nest on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii, and started taking turns incubating. We visited last week to install one of our high-definition nest cameras just as the chick began to pip out of its egg. (Watch now)

Don’t miss this chance to watch a new life develop into an animal whose elegance, power, and beauty have inspired cultures across the North Pacific and sailors from around the world. Our pan-tilt-zoom camera offers great views of the beautifully marked adults and the wispy-feathered chick alike. Watch the parents shelter and feed the chick as it grows—from less than six inches long today to a bird with a wingspan of almost seven feet by the time it fledges, in July.

We’ll be chronicling the birds’ activities on Twitter (@AlbatrossCam)—please add your own observations to the conversation, and share your screen captures in our Flickr Bird Cams Group. You can learn more about Laysan Albatross in our species guide and through our albatross nest FAQs.

We’ll continue to post updates on the Bird Cams Facebook page and on Twitter at @birdcams. Thank you for watching and for your continued support!

Sincerely,

The Bird Cams Team.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at http://www.birds.cornell.edu.

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Newly discovered Hawaiian flower endangered


This video is called Colors of Hawaii – The Flowers of Hawaii.

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

New to Nature No 116: Cyanea kauaulaensis

This Hawaiian bellflower has only just been described – but is already on the danger list

Quentin Wheeler

Sunday 5 January 2014

There are no clearer bellwethers of the widening biodiversity crisis than newly named species that are already critically endangered when christened. A recent example is the bellflower Cyanea kauaulaensis described from Maui by Dr Hank Oppenheimer of the University of Hawaii and Dr David H Lorence of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo. Sadly, this new plant joins nearly 200 native species in Hawaii that have fewer than 50 known individuals in the wild and that are the focus of Hawaii’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program. This lovely plant belongs to the lobelioid bellflowers, all of which are endemic to this island chain. With 125 species, the lobelioids constitute the greatest plant species radiation not only of Hawaii, but of any archipelago on Earth.

Lobelioids belong to the family Campanulaceae that has about 2,000 species around the world with notable diversity in areas of the northern hemisphere. The bellflower family often have milky sap and they vary in habit from short herbaceous forms to shrubs and small trees. Cyanea is the largest of the lobelioid genera with 78 known species that are typically un-branching or branching near their base, bearing a cluster of leaves at the their top and fleshy fruits in season.

While the new species has been observed to grow to two to four metres, some members of the genus attain more than nine metres. Their spindly appearance may relate, in part, to their growing in dense forests where light is limited and where shelter from strong winds permits the survival of such wispy forms.

DNA studies have confirmed that lobelioids are monophyletic, that is, they have all descended from a single common ancestral species that found its way to Hawaii 8-10m years ago. In spite of their evolutionary success measured in numbers of species, lobelioids are ecologically vulnerable. They do not tolerate disturbances of their surrounding forest well and their populations have been diminished by grazing feral pigs, among other stresses. A number of species have not been seen in the wild for years and are most likely already extinct.

Variation in the length of their tubular flowers and elevations where different species are found imply partitioning among species by both environmental factors and a diversity of pollinators. Spines and thorns on the leaves and stems of many Cyanea seemed curious at first to botanists as there were no native animal grazers in Hawaii and in their absence on islands plants tend to loose such defenses. As it turns out, there used to be large geese and ducks on the islands before they were hunted to extinction long before the arrival of European explorers.

Cyanea kauaulaensis is endemic to a couple of leeward valleys on the western end of the island of Maui. Its many-branched habit combined with undivided glabrous and unarmed leaves, small and narrow corollas, and bright orange nearly round to oval fruits distinguish it from all other members of the genus. A dozen or so specimens were collected in 1989 during a botanical survey of land owned by Pioneer Mill, but they were misidentified as C. glabra, a species previously known from windward eastern Maui and thought possibly extinct. C. kauaulaensis, however, is restricted to riparian sites growing on talus or basalt boulder-strewn slopes along both sides of perennial streams. Kaua’ula valley has a large, amphitheatre-shaped head and is bordered by impressive canyon walls reaching 700m that limit direct sunlight to mid-day. Annual rainfall is high, averaging about 3,000mm.

The plants were found growing in clumps. Bent branches were seen to take root and form runners producing erect stems or growing vine-like. Up to six metres in length, these vegetative expansions were frequently leaning on or tangled with nearby plants. The new species flowers from late summer through January and produces mature fruits in March and April. Because of its small numbers and limited geographic range, it is considered critically endangered. It may have lost its avian pollinators and dispersers of its seeds and may be vulnerable to floods, landslides, slugs, rats and competing non-native plant species among other threats.

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All-female albatross couples helping nesting colonies


This video is called Dancing Laysan Albatrosses.

From ABC in Australia:

Albatross colony shows benefits of same-sex pairing

Wednesday, 27 November 2013, Stephen Pincock

When males are thin on the ground, pairs of female albatrosses can work together to raise the next generation by themselves, Hawaiian researchers have found.

The findings, reported this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, have emerged from an unusual colony of Laysan albatrosses that live on the island of Oahu, where females significantly outnumber males.

A decade ago researchers found that 31 per cent of breeding pairs in the colony consisted of two unrelated females who had formed partnerships, some lasting years, to raise young.

“We genetically sexed birds in this colony … and realised that what we had assumed were a male and a female were in fact two females,” says Lindsay Young, a wildlife biologist from independent research organisation Pacific Rim Conservation.

Laysan albatrosses can only lay and incubate one egg each year and will not lay another if that year’s egg is lost. In the Oahu colony, male birds that have a regular partner will sometimes also mate with another female, says Young.

“Basically, the males are cheating on their regular partners and this is how the eggs of two females are fertilised. The two females then pair together to cooperate in rearing the chick.”

Best of a bad job

In their latest paper, Young and her colleagues explored this situation in more depth, monitoring 145 female Laysan albatrosses in the colony from 2003 to 2012 as they incubated eggs and fed their offspring.

On average, pairs of females successfully raised an average of one chick every four years, less than half as many per year as the male-female pairs, which raised an average of two chicks every three years.

The researchers also found that birds in female-female pairs lived shorter lives. This is probably because one was forced to incubate the eggs immediately after laying, instead of going to sea to feed.

“Normally, males take the first long incubation shift of three weeks while the female goes to feed after laying an egg, and after that they alternate every three to seven days,” says Young.

Although the female-female pairs were less successful overall, their partnerships were better for the colony than not reproducing at all, the researchers note.

So the take home message is that for these albatrosses same-sex pairing can be a beneficial and evolutionarily adaptive strategy, Young and colleagues write.

“Compared with the option of not breeding at all, female-female pairing may indeed be ‘making the best of a bad job’ in response to a shortage of males.”

‘Choosy’ males

Intriguingly, the researchers also found that females who successfully reared a chick with another female were more likely to find a male partner in following seasons.

“Males as well as females were capitalising on the female shortage by being ‘choosy’ and only pairing with the females who had the highest chance of raising an offspring,” says Young.

“Typically we think of females as being the choosy sex and selecting for male ornamentation (think peacocks),” she says. “But in this case the males are being choosy by picking the best mothers for their offspring.”

Fukushima disaster continues


This video from Hawaii is called Birds and Fish Dying from Eating Fukushima Tsunami Debris.

Fukushima water crisis: Water recycling system urgently needed, ex-chairman of U.S. nuclear watchdog says — The Asahi Shimbun: here.

The Japanese government may have underestimated by 20 percent the internal radiation doses in workers during the initial phases of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, a U.N. panel said: here.

Good Hawaiian millerbird news


This video is called Millerbird Translocation Success: Saving Endangered Hawaiian Birds.

From Wildlife Extra:

Endangered Millerbird population doubles on Laysan Island

Endangered Millerbird population on Hawai’i’s Laysan Island doubles to more than 100

June 2013. The latest count of endangered Millerbirds on Hawai‘i’s Laysan Island found that the bird’s population has doubled – to over 100 – from the original total of 50 translocated birds released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), American Bird Conservancy (ABC), and others in 2011 and 2012.

Millerbird population isolated and limited

The translocation program was initiated several years ago, when all of the world’s remaining Millerbirds — between 400 and 600 at that time — were limited to the island of Nihoa in the remote North-western Hawaiian Islands. By moving some of the birds to a second island, Laysan, approximately 650 miles northwest of Nihoa, the Millerbird team hoped to reduce the high risk of extinction from catastrophes such as severe storms, droughts, fires, and accidental introduction of alien species such as rats, mosquitos, and/or diseases such as avian pox and malaria. Establishing a second population reduces this risk by increasing the population size and distribution. The translocation of the Nihoa Millerbird to Laysan also serves another purpose. It re-establishes the link in the ecosystem that was lost about 100 years ago when the closely related Laysan Millerbird went extinct.

50 birds moved

In the highly successful first phase of the translocation effort, 24 Millerbirds were moved 650 miles from Nihoa to Laysan in September 2011. A second translocation of 26 birds took place in August 2012. Each release included a multi-day capture period on Nihoa followed by a three-day voyage to Laysan, and was carried out by a team of biologists from FWS, ABC and other organizations.

Successful breeding

The translocated birds produced 29 young during their first breeding season in 2012. The second breeding season is currently underway, and the 73 adults on Laysan have produced at least 29 offspring in 2013, with many more nests still active.

Each bird carries a unique combination of coloured leg bands to allow individual identification in the field. Approximately half of the birds released each year were also fitted with temporary radio transmitters so that their locations could be determined during their first three weeks in their new home. Biologists have been on site most of the time to monitor the birds’ movements and behaviours, including nesting attempts.

Laysan

Close observation of the translocated Millerbirds has yielded significant new scientific information about the species, such as details of breeding chronology and a still-emerging picture of how young birds mature and enter the breeding population. All of this information is important in assessing the progress toward population establishment on Laysan and is valuable in the overall conservation and management of the species. The overwhelming success to date indicates that Laysan has suitable habitat and food resources to support the resourceful and adaptable Millerbirds.

Extinct Laysan species

The Laysan Millerbird, along with the Laysan Rail and Laysan Honeycreeper, went extinct in the early 20th century when Laysan Island was denuded by non-native rabbits. Thus the Millerbirds remaining on Nihoa – a rugged 155 acre volcanic island – became the only Millerbirds left on Earth.

The Millerbird, which weighs less than an ounce, is a lively brown songbird that forages for insects among low shrubs and bunch-grasses. On Laysan, the Millerbird joins other endangered species, such as the Laysan Finch, Laysan Duck, Hawaiian monk seal and several plant species. It also co-exists on Laysan with millions of nesting seabirds.

At 1,023 acres, Laysan is the second-largest of the islands and atolls within Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge located in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, approximately 790 miles northwest of Honolulu.

Hawaiian green turtles recovering, but not enough


This video is called Hawaii Green Sea Turtle Eating.

From ScienceDaily:

Recovery of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles Still Short of Historic Levels

May 29, 2013 — Calls to lift protections for the iconic Hawaiian green sea turtle may be premature, according to a new study led by a Stanford researcher.

Although the number of Hawaiian green sea turtles has increased since 1978 when the species was listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the population may still be only a fraction of historic levels, the research shows.

“It’s critical to compare the animal’s population level to its historic abundance, not just to recent levels,” said study coauthor John N. “Jack” Kittinger, an early career fellow at Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions (COS).

Kittinger and his collaborators compared contemporary (1973-2012) and historical (1250-1950) nesting records of Hawaiian green sea turtles from fishery logs, archeological sites, Hawaiian-language newspapers and first-hand historical accounts. The researchers also gathered current nesting data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s green turtle field monitoring program run by its Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

The work yielded extensive data sets on the occurrence, abundance, geographic distribution and harvest of sea turtles in Hawaii spanning hundreds of years.

Analysis of these records and other archival sources revealed that 80 percent of major historic green sea turtle nesting sites have disappeared and many others have shrunk greatly in size. The only remaining significant nesting site, which accounts for 90 percent of green sea turtle nesting in the Hawaiian Islands, is vulnerable to sea level rise and other threats.

“Hawaiians were able to sustainably coexist with nesting green sea turtles as recently as the early 20th century, when nesting sites could still be found on the main Hawaiian Islands,” said Kittinger, a coauthor of the study who conducted much of the research before joining COS as an early career fellow.

“After traditional harvesting restrictions gave way, we see evidence for population depletion” he said. “This needs to be considered for sustainable management of the species moving forward, including a potential harvesting program should the species be delisted.”

The green sea turtle is an important cultural symbol in Hawaii and performs vital marine functions such as controlling the spread of algae in coral reefs.

“Research such as this study, based on historic and socioeconomic data, adds an important perspective that has been missing from population assessments of endangered animals,” said Larry Crowder, COS science director and a sea turtle expert, who was not involved in the study. “The paper shows that Hawaii’s current green sea turtle population is significantly reduced from historic levels and, due to the conservative approach of these scientists, these numbers may underrepresent that decline.”

The study was published online May 22 in the journal Ecography. Collaborators conducting the research included Kittinger, NOAA and the NOAA Pacific Sea Turtle Historical Ecology Working Group.

Hawaiian petrels endangered by feral cats


This video says about itself:

Rare ‘ua’u (petrel) returns to burrow in the moonlight high on the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

From Wildlife Extra:

New study provides first direct evidence of feral cats in Hawaii killing endangered Hawaiian petrel

Hawaiian petrel existence threatened by cats

April 2013. A new study by federal and university scientists has provided the first direct videographic evidence of depredation of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel by feral cats. The study affirms large amounts of earlier anecdotal evidence that feral cats are an important factor in population declines of the species and provides important additional information on the behaviour of cats at petrel burrows.

Petrel burrows video surveillance

The study, which was prepared by scientists from the University of Hawaiʻi, National Park Service, and U.S. Geological Survey, involved the monitoring of 14 Hawaiian Petrel burrows with digital infrared video cameras that produced 819 videos and 89 still photographs during 2007 and 2008 at petrel nesting areas on Mauna Loa on Hawaiʻi Island. The study confirmed the presence of feral cats at eight burrows.

The report says that the effects of feral cats on endangered birds are poorly understood because many endangered species are rare and therefore observed infrequently. In addition, some endangered species are nocturnal and occur only seasonally in remote and inaccessible environments.

Numbers reduced drastically

All that is true in the case of the Hawaiian Petrel. This species was once numerous and widespread throughout the entire Hawaiian archipelago but now numbers only about 15,000 birds distributed in isolated breeding colonies on Kauaʻi, Lanaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi Island. The birds spend most of their time at sea, and return to land only to breed in barren alpine areas and steep forested slopes, where they come and go from underground burrows nocturnally. Usually, confirmation of breeding is determined by a variety of indirect signs such as the presence of droppings, feathers, footprints, or vocalizations.

Depredation of Hawaiian Petrel adults and chicks at colonies has been frequently documented and attributed to cats based on the condition of bird carcasses and the presence of nearby cat scat. Analysis of cat scat and stomach contents of feral cats also suggest that cat depredation is occurring. However, the technology does not currently exist to differentiate whether petrel remains came from consumption of live prey or scavenged dead animals.

One feral cat depredation event was recorded on video in 2008 and showed a feral cat waiting near the entrance of a burrow for over one hour. When the petrel chick emerged, the cat quickly grabbed it. The remains of the chick were found 10 meters from the burrow. Evidence from an additional depredation event was documented in 2008 during a field visit by researchers, while eight other depredation events were documented during field visits in 2007.

The report says that the video data should prove useful in studying both the bird’s nesting behaviour and predator interactions. “This information may prove to be beneficial for developing more targeted management strategies for a suite of endangered bird species in Hawaii,” said Dr. Steven Hess of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Endangered Palila and Hawaiian goose also targeted

Video evidence already exists for feral cat depredation of another endangered Hawaiian bird, the Palila, while another video shows a feral cat trying to take the egg of a Nēnē, the endangered Hawaiian Goose. According to the study, other strong evidence for the negative effects of feral cats on native Hawaiian seabirds comes from the positive response of bird populations where feral cats have been controlled and from comparisons of Wedge-tailed Shearwater reproduction in the presence and absence of feral cats.

The authors point out that while the depredation of Hawaiian Petrel chicks may limit the recruitment of chicks into the population, the killing of adults by cats may have even more severe consequences.

Slow reproduction rate

“This species has delayed sexual maturity, low reproductive potential and extended nestling development, all of which place a premium on survivorship of the adult birds. Further, the birds also have a high degree of mate fidelity and may have difficulty replacing mates that have been depredated,” said Dr. Darcy Hu of the National Park Service.

She pointed out that the majority of numerous depredated Hawaiian Petrel carcasses found in the study area were adult birds, presumably ones that were actively breeding or seeking mates.

Cat based extinction

“These data provide yet more evidence that feral cats are having an impact on many wildlife species, but especially on birds,” said George Wallace, ABC’s Vice President for Oceans and Islands. “Feral cats are believed to have been at least partially, if not fully, responsible for the extinction of several dozen wildlife species, including the Stephens Island Wren of New Zealand and Mexico’s Guadalupe Storm-Petrel. Management controls, such as predator control and predator-proof fencing are urgently needed to prevent that from happening to the Hawaiian Petrel.”

One such effort is underway to protect Mauna Loa’s Hawaiian Petrels. The National Park Service with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the American Bird Conservancy, is constructing a fence specifically designed to keep feral cats and mongooses out of important Hawaiian Petrel nesting habitat in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Once completed, the fence will protect an estimated 45 active petrel nesting sites and enclose 640 acres of prime nesting habitat.

Bone study shows impact of sea fisheries on seabirds: here.