Rare birds of Maui island

This video is about Maui forest birds, including the Maui parrotbill.

By Chris Hamilton in The Maui News in Hawaii:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Survey shows endangered Maui parrotbill population doing well

WAILUKU, Maui – The critically endangered Maui parrotbill is apparently doing quite well, perhaps even thriving, in the The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii’s Waikamoi Preserve, according a report issued this week.

Nature Conservancy scientists estimated there are about 20 of the chunky yellowish, insect-eating birds per square kilometer in the windward preserve near the summit of Haleakala. That means the estimated population of about 500 is holding steady or possibly even increasing, said Nature Conservancy of Hawaii spokesman Grady Timmons on Friday.

“It was very encouraging because they only have a natural habitat of about 19 square miles, all located in East Maui,” Timmons said.

How much the parrotbill population increased is difficult to say, the scientists said, since the last survey was not as extensive. But they said they are certain that the numbers are as good or getting better.

The bird, which is a member of the Native Hawaiian honeycreeper species, has been relegated to the higher elevations since its natural habitat has been damaged over the years by agriculture and development, he said. Avian flu, malaria and rats that eat the birds’ eggs also have taken a toll, Timmons said.

Ornithologist Dusti Becker, who is project coordinator for the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, said she was surprised by the results of the population survey, which she led.

“I didn’t expect that there would be that many birds there,” she said.

A previous study had placed the density of the bird population at about half of what the most recent survey found. However, scientists cautioned that the findings were limited to a two-week survey done in September.

Still, the survey area is 400 acres between the Waikamoi Stream and Koolau Gap, and the two-person teams reported hearing or seeing dozens of parrotbills, including juvenile birds.

“We can say with confidence that Waikamoi hosts a breeding population,” said Nature Conservancy Maui Director Mark White.

The scientists hypothesized that Nature Conservancy efforts in recent years to fence off the preserve from wild pigs and goats and remove invasive plants and replace them with native species likely contributed to the parrotbill population hike. For instance, native shrub cover in Waikamoi has tripled in the past 15 years.

And the parrotbills mostly eat grubs found in the shrubs’ fruit, according to the report.

The Waikamoi Preserve is 5,230 acres. The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii has been managing the property, which is owned by Haleakala Ranch, since the nonprofit received a permanent conservation easement from the ranch in 1983.

About 25 percent of the parrotbill population is found in Waikamoi and most of the rest is in the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve in East Maui, also on the slopes of Haleakala.

The birds were once found throughout Maui and Molokai. The parrotbill is only 5 to 6 inches long and gets its name from the parrot shape of its bill. The birds are olive green on top and have a yellowish belly and distinctive yellow stripe over their eyes.

The bills, which Timmons compared to can openers, are incredibly strong and able to pry open bark to reach insects and grubs.

“The typical story line with endangered forest birds is one of decline,” said Sam Gon, The Nature Conservancy’s senior scientist and cultural adviser. “To have an endangered bird maintain its population and perhaps even show signs of increasing is very encouraging and cause for celebration.”

Nature Conservancy scientists noted that the po’ouli bird, which lived in the same preserve, may be extinct. The last pair of po’ouli birds was last seen in 2004.

For more information, go online to mauiforestbirds.org.

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few natural wetlands remaining in the Hawaiian Islands. Located along the south central coast of the island of Maui between the towns of Kihei and Ma’alaea, this 691-acre wetland is home to the endangered Hawaiian stilt (ae’o) and Hawaiian coot (‘alae ke oke’o). The refuge is adjacent to Kealia Beach, which is a nesting ground for the endangered hawksbill turtle: here.

11 thoughts on “Rare birds of Maui island

  1. I enjoyed that video! It’s sad to think that those birds are in such danger of becoming extinct! Hopefully the small population that exists at the moment will continue to grow!


  2. Yes it’s really sad.But because of the way an copiousness of unique species evolved in the islands, Hawai�i now has more endangered species�birds and plants�than other places, but in recent years it has also become a leader in saving its rare fauna and flora.


  3. Hi barbaraerik, I do hope that Hawaii conservationists will manage to save biodiversity against money grabbing polluters, “developers”, and other threats.

    Thanks for registering at my blog.


  4. JOAN CARSON: Saving Hawaii’s Endangered Birds

    * Posted February 28, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.

    ‘Hana Hou” in Hawaiian means “one more time,” or “encore.” It can be heard in the islands after a concert or any other performance — such as the hula. It also is the name of Hawaiian Airlines’ in-flight magazine, suggesting you visit Hawaii “one more time.” “Hana Hou” is my favorite in-flight magazine. Every issue contains an article on the islands’ natural history. Birds are frequent subjects and I suspect the editor, Michael Shapiro, is a birdwatcher. On our latest trip, there were articles on birds in both the January and February issues.

    When I opened January’s magazine, Joan Conrow’s short piece immediately caught my eye. There was a photo of a person’s hand, palm-side up. Visualize your thumb laying so close to the index finger that it covers half of it. Cradled in that amount of space was a tiny, naked bird — a nestling. So tiny and so precious. The bird, an “Akepa,” is one of Hawaii’s native honeycreepers. It’s part of a recovery program funded by the San Diego Zoo. It operates at the Big Island’s Keauhou Bird Conservation Center near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

    Just as the California condor was rescued from extinction by a captive breeding program, so are several of Hawaii’s endemic forest birds being rescued. KBCC is the world’s first facility to breed rain forest birds. It developed its technique by experimenting on some of Hawaii’s common birds. The center has perfected propagation programs for 12 native forest species, seven of which are endangered.

    This is where the last 60 Hawaiian crows (Alala) in the world are located. The plan is to start releasing some back into the wild after the population reaches 75. Other releases already have occurred. During the past four years, 28 captive-raised Palila (another honeycreeper) have been released on Mauna Kea. Since 1998, about 175 native thrush (Puaiohi) have been released in Alakai Swamp on the island of Kauai.

    If you are going to successfully breed and raise endangered birds with the goal of returning them to the wild, something else must be considered. They need to be returned to an environment where they not only can survive but successfully breed and raise their young.

    Shapiro’s article in “Hana Hou’s” February issue addressed this. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge on the Big Island was created specifically for the Island’s native bird species. The refuge, 33,000 acres of forest on the eastern slope of Mauna Kea, needed a lot of restoration work. Large amounts of land were planted with native trees and plants, some of them rare and endangered. The goal is that they will sustain the native bird population. One of those involved in the project was Jack Jeffrey, senior wildlife biologist for the refuge.

    One of the endangered plants was the native lobelia “oh wai,” an historical food favorite of the Hawaiian honeycreeper, the I’iwi. Jeffrey’s dream was to see and photograph the I’iwi feeding on this plant. Four hundred of them had been planted on Hakalau. To survive in the long run, they needed to be bird-pollinated. The I’iwi’s decurved bill seems designed to fit into the lobelia’s curved blossom and accomplish this. Young birds must be taught how to do this and Jeffrey was told the process would be 100 years in the making to be successful.

    In July 2008, while Jeffrey was leading a field trip for school children, the youngsters spotted an I’iwi feeding in the tubular blossoms of the endangered lobelia. It had taken 20 years and the work of hundreds of people to reach this goal. Jeffrey’s photo on that occasion is his favorite and he has taken thousands of I’iwi photographs.

    Things are looking up for Hawaii’s endemic birds and I’m looking forward to more of such articles in “Hana Hou” magazine. If you want to check it out online and read the complete story, the address is http://www.hanahou.com.

    Contact Joan Carson at joanpcarson@comcast.net or P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370.



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