Newly hatched endangered Hawaiian birds being closely watched

Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo reported Tuesday that six tiny nestlings at one of its facilities in Hawaii are being closely watched by conservation biologists.

The six chicks represent hope for a small Hawaiian bird species known as the ‘akikiki. The species is being brought into captivity to start a breeding population through a collaborative effort.

Eggs from ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e nests were collected from the wild recently as part of an effort to preserve these two bird species from extinction.

The ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e are two species of Hawaiian honeycreeper found only on the island of Kauai. These two small bird species have been severely affected by introduced diseases such as avian malaria, loss of native forest habitat, hurricanes, and the introduction of non-native predator species in the wild. Very little is known about them and they have not been raised in a zoological setting before.

People with the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program have worked successfully with a number of other similar native Hawaiian birds and are using these techniques to ensure both species will thrive.

Since early March, Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project team members have spent hundreds of hours searching the dense rain forests of the ‘Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve for the nests of these two rare species, said project leader Dr. Lisa “Cali” Crampton. “Both nest on tiny branches at the top of the canopy, about 30 to 40 feet high, and camouflage their nests as clumps of moss. To reach the nests, KFBRP devised a suspension system for a 40-foot extension ladder.”

Eggs from the two species were removed from the nests and a team of bird experts hiked and helicoptered them to a facility for artificial incubation. Six ‘akikiki chicks have hatched so far and appear to be doing well under the care of San Diego Zoo Global staff.

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