Study shows best way to protect native Puaiohi birds

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources has released a study done in Kauai’s Alakai Wilderness Preserve that could help protect the native Puaiohi bird.  

Researchers at University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project looked at different types of management options to help increase their size, since there is only 500 left in Kauai’s forests.

They determined that controlling rats appear to be the most effective. 
  
Female and juvenile survival appeared to be the most important influences on population growth and persistence, so management should focus on increasing female and juvenile Puaiohi survival. Both are very susceptible to rat predation.

The study was led by Dr. Jean Fantle-Lepczyk at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in collaboration with KFBRP and researchers at UH Manoa. 

Fantle-Lepczyk was happy to find that, in addition to rat removal, other management options, such as providing nest boxes and supplemental food and improving native habitat, have potential to increase Puaiohi numbers.

The Puaiohi is also one of the last six endemic forest bird species to remain in Kauai’s Alakai Wilderness. 

Kauai has lost five of its native birds in recent decades and those that survive are restricted to a small area of high elevation forest. 

They are at risk from introduced predators, such as rats and feral cats, avian malaria, and habitat degradation due to feral livestock and invasive plants, in addition to natural threats such as drought and hurricanes.

Fantle-Lepcyk says, “This study shows that practical, attainable management activities can increase Puaiohi numbers and prevent the extinction of this unique endemic species.  Because many of the issues facing Puaiohi are the same as those faced by the other Hawaiian forest birds, the recommended management activities could have a substantial and valuable positive impact on the other remaining endemic birds of the Alakai.”

KFBRP Project Coordinator, Dr. Lisa Crampton, said, “This study is important because it helps justify the enormous time and effort KFBRP, its partners and the public (via the “Birds, Not Rats!” campaign) is investing in rat control in the Alakai.

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