Friday, September 7, 2012

Bird Conservation in Hawaii

When I visited Hawaii for the first time in 2008, I was on my honeymoon but of course I managed to squeeze in some birding. I was blown away by the amazing birds on the island of Maui and shocked to learn about the numerous challenges that they face. During my visit, I birded at the Waikamoi Preserve on Haleakala that is owned by the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy is taking dramatic steps to ensure the survival of the species that call this place home including a fence and aggressive hunting to remove feral pigs from the preserve.

Sign at the Entrance to Waikamoi Preserve
Some native Hawaiian species are in serious danger of going extinct and many others are endangered or heading that way. People must intervene to help make sure that we do not lose more of these species than we already have. The American Bird Conservancy has been working hard to ensure that the birds are protected and are really helping to open the eyes of birders around the world to the problems facing Hawaiian birds.

One of the first problems is that although Hawaiian species make up 1/3 of the birds on the endangered species list, they only receive 4.1% of the funding. According to the ABC, mainland species receive 15 times more funding than the Hawaiian species. This lack of funding makes it extremely difficult to accomplish the difficult tasks required to protect the birds.

One of the introduced species on Maui - Gray Francolin
In addition to the lack of funding, the shear number of invasive species in Hawaii is staggering. While we typically think of introduced rats, cats, pigs and snakes as being major problems, and they are, we forget about the smaller animals that can be just as bad. Hawaii is home to many species of ants and mosquitoes that cause massive issues for the birds.

Me surrounded by non native trees at Hosmer's Grove
To read the full story about the plight of Hawaiian birds, check out this awesome magazine from the ABC: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/birdconservation_pdf/MagSpring09.pdf. While it was published back in 2009, it is still extremely relevant today. They have also releases and awesome video titled Endangered Hawai'i. You can view it here http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/oceansandislands/hawaii/endangered_hawaii.html and also purchase your own copy!

I will be heading to back to Hawaii for two weeks in February 2012. We will be spending a week on Maui and then a week on the Big Island. I am hoping that I will have the chance to see even more of the native species and learn first hand about the conservation issues being faced. Are you or anyone you know involved in the conservation of Hawaiian species? I would love to have the chance to talk and bird with conservationists while I am there and then write all about it for my blog, BirdingisFun.com and a couple other publications.

-Rob

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