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Conservation status and recovery strategies for endemic Hawaiian birds

Studies in Avian Biology
By: , and 

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Abstract

Populations of endemic Hawaiian birds declined catastrophically following the colonization of the islands by Polynesians and later cultures. Extinction is still occurring, and recovery programs are urgently needed to prevent the disappearance of many other species. Programs to recover the endemic avifauna incorporate a variety of conceptual and practical approaches that are constrained by biological, financial, social, and legal factors. Avian recovery is difficult to implement in Hawai‘i because a variety of challenging biological factors limit bird populations. Hawaiian birds are threatened by alien predatory mammals, introduced mosquitoes that transmit diseases, alien invertebrate parasites and predators that reduce invertebrate food resources, and alien animals and plants that destroy and alter habitats. Life in the remote Hawaiian Archipelago has imposed other biological constraints to avian recovery, including limited geographical distributions and small population sizes. Recovery of the endemic avifauna is also challenging because resources are insufficient to mitigate the many complex, interacting factors that limit populations. Decisions must be made for allocating limited resources to species teetering on the brink of extinction and those in decline. If funds are spent primarily on saving the rarest species, more abundant species will decline and become more difficult to recover. However, critically rare species will disappear if efforts are directed mainly towards restoring species that are declining but not in immediate danger of becoming extinct. Determining priorities is difficult also because management is needed both to supplement bird populations and to restore habitats of many species. Rare species cannot respond quickly to management efforts intended only to improve habitat and reduce limiting factors. Recovery is slow, if it occurs at all, because years or decades are generally required for habitat rehabilitation and because small populations of birds initially increase slowly even when habitat conditions are favorable. Consequently, even as habitat conditions begin to improve, small populations may disappear unless they are supplemented directly. Hawaiian bird conservation is also affected by social and legal factors, including hunting alien game species, commercial land use practices, and lawsuits and policies concerning endangered species and critical habitat. Influenced by this mixture of conflicting and competing issues, Hawaiian bird recovery programs range from management of single species and some components of their habitats to limited forms of community or ecosystem management. Although the effectiveness of most programs is difficult to evaluate because of monitoring limitations, several programs exemplify species and community management. Programs primarily intended to recover single species include Hawaiian Goose or Nene (Branta sandvicensis), Hawaiian Crow or ‘Alala (Corvus hawaiiensis), and Palila (Loxioides bailleui). Programs attempting to manage entire communities of forest birds include Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Hawai‘i, and Waikamoi Preserve, Hanawi Natural Area Reserve, and Haleakala National Park on Maui.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Conservation status and recovery strategies for endemic Hawaiian birds
Series title Studies in Avian Biology
Volume 22
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher Cooper Ornithological Society
Publisher location Los Angeles, CA
Contributing office(s) Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center
Description 28 p.
First page 359
Last page 376
Country United States
State Hawaii