Report: Nearly all native birds in Hawaii in peril

Mar 20, 2009 By AUDREY McAVOY , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Hawaii's native avian population is in peril, with nearly all the state's birds in danger of becoming extinct, a federal report says.

One-third of the nation's endangered are in Hawaii, said the report issued Thursday by the Interior Department. Thirty-one Hawaiian bird species are listed as endangered, more than anywhere else in the country.

"That is the epicenter of extinctions and near-extinctions," said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which helped produce the study. "Hawaii is (a) borderline ."

Hawaii's native birds are threatened by the destruction of their habitats by and feral animals like pigs, goats and sheep.

Diseases, especially those borne by mosquitoes, are another killer.

One of those in trouble is the palila, a yellow-crowned songbird that lives on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea. Its population plunged by more than 60 percent from 6,600 in 2002 to 2,200 last year.

Habitat loss and predators are part of the problem, said Holly Freifeld, a vertebrate recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Honolulu.

Another is that grazing feral sheep ruin mamane trees, which provide palila birds with their preferred food: mamane seed pods. The trees are also being killed by disease.

The Fish and Wildlife Service plans to fence off an area on Mauna Kea, and remove sheep from the fenced area, to give the palila an environment where it can flourish, Freifeld said in an interview.

The restored habitat would also likely help other which also have lived in the same forest ecosystem, she said.

Similar habitat restoration projects have worked in the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge.

Workers there installed fences, controlled invasive plant species, removed pigs, and planted koa and .

The Interior Department's report, called "The State of the Birds United States of America 2009," noted Hakalau's populations of the Hawaii creeper and akiapolaau have increased dramatically.

"Application of these successful methods is urgently needed elsewhere," the report said.

Scott Fetz, wildlife program manager at the state's Division of Forestry and Wildlife, said he was confident such efforts could help restore all of Hawaii's endangered species, excluding those that have already become extinct.

"The basic, fundamental problem that we have is a lack of funding to do what we need to do," Fetz said. "If we had a lot more funding that we do, we would be able to recover most, if not all, of the species that we have that are endangered."

Fetz said legislation pending before Congress could provide a welcome boost. One would provide funding for restoration efforts. Another designed to provide money to help states cope with climate change would help Hawaii because warmer temperatures allow mosquitoes to enter habitats at higher elevations currently inhabited by the palila and other forest birds.

The U.S. State of Birds report was requested in October 2007 by President George W. Bush.

----

On the Net:

State of the Birds report: http://www.stateofthebirds.org/

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Bodies of 500 sea lions found on Peruvian beach

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Report: Birds endangered by energy development

Mar 19, 2009

(AP) -- As the Obama administration pursues more homegrown energy sources, a new government report faults energy production of all types - wind, ethanol and mountaintop coal mining - for contributing to steep ...

Whooping cranes make a strong comeback

Dec 27, 2006

The yearly migration of the whooping cranes has returned them to Texas's Aransas National Wildlife refugee with 237 of the birds returning.

Bald eagles may no longer be endangered

Feb 01, 2007

Experts say bald eagles are likely to be taken from the endangered species list as the U.S. government's Feb. 16 deadline for ruling on the birds approaches.

Sage grouse taken off endangered list

Apr 24, 2007

The rare sage-grouse is fighting for survival in Colorado, but because of a recent spurt in numbers the birds will not be listed as an endangered species.

Faster koa tree growth without adverse ecosystem effects

Mar 27, 2008

U.S. Forest Service scientists with the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry have completed a study on ways to make high-value koa trees grow faster, while increasing biodiversity, carbon sequestration, scenic ...

Recommended for you

Can stress management help save honeybees?

3 hours ago

Honeybee populations are clearly under stress—from the parasitic Varroa mite, insecticides, and a host of other factors—but it's been difficult to pinpoint any one of them as the root cause of devast ...

CPR for South Coast plants

6 hours ago

Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) Flora Conservation Officer Sarah Barrett and FloraTechnical Officer Dylan Lehmann set up a display at this year's Albany Wildflower Exhibition to explain some of the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.