Maui News

Scientists Take ‘Important Step’ to Saving Endangered Kiwikiu

October 23, 2019, 3:53 PM HST
* Updated October 24, 6:12 AM
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In an effort to lower the risk of extinction for the kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill), seven birds have been relocated to a new home that scientists hope will provide more “productive” breeding conditions.

The five males and two females were transferred from the Hanawī Natural Area Reserve to the Nakula NAR on Haleakalā.

Scientists hope the newly restored, predominantly koa tree ecosystem at Nakula is more suitable for the birds than the wetter, colder, ʻōhiʻa-dominated forest at Hanawī.

The goal of the move, they say, is to establish a second “insurance” population.

“This is an important step in the decades-long effort to re-establish a distinct population of kiwikiu to better ensure the tiny, yellow forest birds’ survival,” a press release from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources read.

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Kiwikiu once inhabited all of the forests of Haleakalā, and were even found on Moloka‘i.

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Due to habitat destruction from feral ungulates, the species became limited to a tiny area on the windward side of Maui.

Biologists estimate that fewer than 300 of these endemic honeycreepers remain; deeming them among the most critically endangered native birds in Hawai‘i.

Surveys indicate the population is more likely around 157.

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“Without immediate intervention from people, it is feared the kiwikiu could become extinct,” the release added.

“Preventing another extinction requires intensive management actions.”

Next week, the first bird out of the seven wild kiwikiu will join captive-bred birds from the Maui Bird Conservation Center in the koa-dominated Nakula reserve.

Upon release, the birds will hopefully begin mating in the forest, brought back to life in recent years after decades of overgrazing by cows, goats, deer, and other hooved animals.

More than 250,000 shrubs and trees have been planted at Nakula to date.

Despite the protections kiwikiu enjoy at Hanawī, their numbers have continued to decline in recent years.

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