Saving the Maui Parrotbill |
Maui Parrotbill by Michael Walther
The Maui Parrotbill has an estimated total population of just 500 individuals, and is found only in the remote high-elevation rain forests on the north slopes of eastern Maui. Disease, habitat degradation by introduced pigs, and competition from introduced bird species are threats to the Maui Parrotbill. Other potential threats also include predation by rats, cats, and the introduced Barn Owl. Low-flying helicopters transporting tourists and researchers may also disturb the birds, particularly during nesting.
American Bird Conservancy has made the Maui Parrotbill one of its high-priority species for our bird conservation work in Hawai’i. With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other partners, our goal is to create a new population of this endangered bird. Our multi-year plan includes the following objectives:
- Fence Kahikinui (3,000 ha) on leeward east Maui
- Remove ungluates
- Restore koa forests
- Use captive reared and translocated birds from windward east Maui population to create a second population of parrotbills and double the species population
- Work with partners to support and promote captive breeding programs.
- Advance research on the ecology of mosquitoes, avian malaria, and avian pox, especially work leading to improved methods to control malaria
- Work in partnership with The Nature Conservancy to bring additional areas of windward east Maui under permanent protection
Status as of July 2010
Planning and site preparation for the Maui Parrotbill translocation is under way. A translocation plan is being drafted, and a trial restoration area has been selected to assess the viability of the seed bank of native plants and potential restoration techniques. This site will ultimately be the location for an experimental release of parrotbills. Once exotic mammals are removed from the trial area, plants will be monitored and data gathered to estimate restoration costs for the larger Kahikinui area. Once completed, the fenced habitat area will support a new, self-sustaining Maui Parrotbill population. Four trips have been made to the selected release site and to the larger Kahikinui restoration site to select camp sites and helicopter landing zones, select and flag fence lines, and conduct initial plant surveys. A next critical step is to conduct an Environmental Assessment for the fence lines.