Bird of the Week, November 18, 2011

Millerbird by R. Kohley


The Millerbird is a small, brown and buff, Old World warbler that, until recently, was only found in the vegetated portions of rocky, 156-acre Nihoa Island in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Due to its extremely limited range and small, vulnerable population, this species is listed as Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.


Another Millerbird subspecies once occurred on Laysan Island, some 650 miles away, but it became extinct between 1916-1923 due to the introduction of European rabbits, which destroyed the vegetation there. However, the eradication of the rabbits has allowed the habitat on Laysan to regenerate.


The Millerbird is extremely vulnerable on Nihoa. The accidental introduction of mammalian predators, non-native species, or a catastrophic weather event could quickly bring about its extinction. Therefore, a key recovery goal for the species has been to re-establish a second, “insurance” population on Laysan.


In September 2011, after years of research and preparation, a joint expedition of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ABC, and other partners moved 24 Millerbirds from Nihoa to Laysan. The birds are thriving, with several pairs establishing territories, building nests, and even laying eggs. Scientists will remain on Laysan for the next year to monitor the birds.  A decision on whether to translocate more Millerbirds will depend on the overwinter survival and breeding success of these 24 birds.  See the full press release for more about the Millerbird translocation.




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Photo: Millerbird by R. Kohley; Range Map, ABC