Pioneering Conservation Tools to Save Birds in Hawaii
Throughout the Hawaiian Islands, NFWF and its partners are fighting on the front lines of bird conservation.
In a place sometimes referred to as the “extinction capital of the world,” NFWF-funded projects are helping to slow or reverse declines for rare and endemic species such as the palila, Nihoa millerbird and Maui parrotbill, along with disappearing seabird species such as the Hawaiian petrel and Laysan albatross.
To make a difference on the ground for Hawaii’s diverse collection of unique, colorful and critically imperiled birds, biologists are using the newest and most effective conservation tools. Pioneering methods supported by NFWF include the protection of ground-nesting seabirds with advanced fencing capable of deterring everything from goats to cats and even mice. At one of Hawaii’s most remote nesting colonies, new acoustic and visual sensors help scientists keep tabs on seabirds and non-native predators.
Of all the conservation tools being put to work in Hawaii, translocation and the reintroduction of species remain some of the most powerful and effective.
In 2015, biologists initiated a project to establish a colony of endangered Hawaiian petrels at a national wildlife refuge on Kaua‘i by translocating chicks from a remote, mountaintop colony to newly restored habitat protected by a NFWF-funded, predator-proof fence. In addition, albatross eggs were translocated from a Navy missile test range on Kaua‘i to a refuge on O‘ahu, where the chicks were raised by hand.
One new project, in particular, captured the public’s attention in 2015. Leveraging a NFWF grant, state and federal wildlife officials joined the San Diego Zoo to launch a bold plan to reintroduce the ‘Alala, or Hawaiian crow, to the island of Hawaii. The ‘Alala Restoration Working Group is supporting an intensive captive breeding and reintroduction program with the goal of releasing 11-13 birds into the Upper Ka‘u Forest Reserve and Pu‘u Makaala Natural Area Reserve each year for five years starting in 2016.
“The last bird disappeared in 2002, so a lot of people have never even seen an ‘Alala in the wild,” said John Vetter, a state wildlife biologist involved in the project. “This species is important ecologically, and it’s important culturally. And they’re very charismatic birds – they’re large and loud, and they make very interesting calls. I think just seeing them on the landscape again will get people really excited.”
Contributing Partner: U.S. Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service