say it ain’t so: more bird extinctions on Kauai

akikiki may be extinct

When the bird watchers report that two extremely rare birds have been conspicuous by their absence in recent years, we must worry.

Turns out, Hawaii's natural resources agency is sending crews of biologists into the forest areas of Kaua‘i to conduct population surveys of rare native forest birds to understand whether a suspected decline is taking place, and if so, to determine what areas are affected (via common dreams).

Several species that had been seen regularly in recent years seem now to have disappeared, including the endemic ‘akeke‘e, or Kaua‘i ‘akepa and ‘akikiki, or Kaua‘i creeper, whose habitat is the Alaka‘i swamp.

“Populations of the remaining native forest birds may now be in rapid decline due to a collection of threats that may include loss and degradation of habitat, predation by introduced mammals, and disease,” said Peter Young, (who was until yeaterday) the DLNR chairperson.

This news is very disturbing but, fortunately DLNR is focusing efforts to get answers quickly so that action can be taken as soon as possible.

The field teams include private citizens/photographers familiar with Kaua‘i’s birds, scientists from the United States Geological Survey, Pacific Islands Ecosystems Research Center, Kilauea Field Station, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Hawaii Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, The Nature Conservancy, Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee, and staff of the Keauhou Bird conservation center, all under the direction of Pauline Roberts, the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project Coordinator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Having witnessed the tragic rapid decline and probable extinction of the po‘ouli on Maui in the last year or so, this is a clear and powerful reminder that protection and restoration is needed early-on, before populations reach critically low numbers.

Hawai‘i's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) recognizes the Alaka‘i Wilderness Preserve as a key habitat for numerous native and endangered species of plants and wildlife and a highly diverse unique montane ecosystem.

Teams will be surveying the 16-square-mile Alaka‘i wilderness preserve, a mountain rain forest rising at its highest some 4,000 to 4,500 feet in the Waimea district of northwestern Kaua‘i.

After the broad surveys are done, DLNR in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey will undertake research projects to sample birds for the presence of introduced diseases; and monitor birds to determine whether they are breeding successfully and to examine causes of mortality.

The Alaka‘i Wilderness Preserve is a haven for rare plants and birds, many of which are on the endangered species list. Of the 71 known Hawaiian bird species, an estimated 24 have disappeared and 32 are endangered.

Published by Ken on April 25th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems

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