Thursday, January 17, 2002

State aims to mate
endangered poouli birds

1 male and 2 females are the only
known survivors of the species

By Rosemarie Bernardo

State biologists will attempt to pair two Hawaiian forest birds called poouli to save the species from extinction.

According to the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, only three poouli, a male and two females, are known to exist in a remote rain forest in Maui.

Michael Buck, administrator of the Forestry and Wildlife Division, said, "Our first priority was to expand habitat management in the East Maui watershed -- their only known home -- to reduce threats to the poouli and other native forest birds. We had hoped to find other poouli in the area, but now we believe translocation may offer the only hope to continue the species."

Coordinator Jim Groombridge of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project will lead the six-week project within the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve. Biologists plan to bring one of the female forest birds within proximity of the male forest bird. If the first female fails to breed with the male, the second female may be captured to attempt breeding.

"When you're only working with three birds, it's hard to think in terms of restoring the population," Groombridge said. "But when we have a chance to save one of Hawaii's unique native species, we think this is an effort worth trying."

The poouli was discovered in 1973 in the rain forest of East Maui by students attending a University of Hawaii expedition.

It was the first new Hawaiian bird species to be discovered since 1923.

Known as the only Hawaiian forest bird known to eat tree snails, the poouli is described as a small, stocky, brown forest bird with a bandit's black mask. The forest bird also eats insects, spiders and fruit.

Initially, the poouli population was fewer than 200 birds, with its last known breeding to take place in 1996.

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