Bird rescuers ‘desperately’ search for Kauai Honeycreepers as species faces extinction

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A Kauai-based team of rescuers embarked on a 10-day journey to a remote part of the island in what state officials described as a “desperate” search for the last chance of three ‘akikiki endangered honeycreepers, with the native bird now on the verge of extinction as early as next year.

The team, comprised of staff from the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project, the State Forestry and Wildlife Division, and the University of Washington’s Cooperative Pacific Studies Unit ‘Hawai’i, aims to find at least two of the critically endangered Hawaiian honey trees in its forest habitat. , according to a press release.

Rescuers hope to capture two banded ‘akikiki – a male named Carrot and another bird named Abbot whose sex has not been determined – as well as an unbanded female bird named Na Pua, in hopes of bringing the animals at the Maui Bird Conservation Center, the statement said.

Over the past half-century, disease-carrying mosquitoes have helped wipe out several species of Hawaiian forest birds. Now the problem is accelerating as Kauai’s last mosquito-free bird sanctuary has been overrun with insects that can kill a bird with one bite. Courtesy: Léon Bérard/2021

Officials hope to increase the population through captive breeding in central Maui and eventually release them into the wild.

The ‘akikiki, like other species of honeycomb native to the islands, has seen its numbers decimated in recent years, the main culprit being mosquito-borne avian malaria. Researchers say human-caused climate change has allowed mosquitoes to reach higher and higher into the birds’ natural habitat.

Akikiki numbers have plummeted in recent years, and the prospects for the species were already looking bleak before this latest voyage. Biologists monitoring the area found the population of more than 70 birds recorded in 2015 had fallen to just five by 2021, according to the Department of Lands and Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, survey teams trapped mosquitoes around nearby islands to collect data for a potential project to possibly introduce “incompatible” male mosquitoes and reduce the insect’s population.

“The only thing more devastating than the sudden disappearance of ‘akikiki over the past few years is realizing that the same will happen to the rest of the Hawaiian Honeycreepers in the very near future,” said Justin Hite, the supervisor. of the KFBRP field. The version.

Hite encouraged the public to support efforts to release incompatible male mosquitoes to protect native birds.

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