Saving the Hawaiian Birds


The native birds of the Hawaiian Islands are rapidly disappearing due to the introduction of non-native species, loss of habitat and disease. While the islands are themselves small areas of land, they are home to more thirty percent of the endangered species in the United States. The vast majority of birds that have become extinct in this country were native to Hawaii.

The Hawaiian Endangered Bird Conservation Program, established in 1993, represents the collaborative efforts of the U.S. Department of the ~ Interior, the state of Hawaii, the Zoological Society of San Diego's Department of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES) and a number of private landowners. In 1996, the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center was established on the Big Island of Hawaii. The program also assumed the operation of the Maui Bird Conservation Center in 1996. Since the program's inception, these groups are working together to develop the means to restore the populations of twenty-two of these critically endangered birds. One such program involves collecting the eggs from the nests of the wild birds, artificially incubating them and hand rearing the chicks. These birds are then either released back into their native habitat or held back for future captive breeding purposes. In 1999, the first successful reintroduction of the endangered Puaiohi that not only survived the reintroduction but also went on to successfully breed and fledge their own offspring within sixty days of release. Captive propagation alone cannot restore these fragile populations; protection and preservation of the habitat is critical to accomplish the recovery of these imperiled species.

Since it began, over 750 native birds have hatched in the program. Eight of these species have been declared federally endangered including the Maui Parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys), Hawaii 'Akepa (Loxopscoccineus), Palila (Loxoides bail/eui), Hawaiian Creeper (Oreomystis mana), Puaiohi (Myadestes palmeri), 'Alala (Corvus hawaiiensis), Crested Honeycreeper or [}.kohekohe (Palmeria dolei) and the Hawaiian Goose or Nene (Branta sandvisensis). Five species of non-threatened native birds have also been added to the propagation program to assist the development of captive breeding and release techniques.