Birds on the brink


POSTED: Friday, March 20, 2009

A new national report says more bird species in Hawaii are near extinction than anywhere else in the country.

“;Habitats such as those in Hawaii are on the verge of losing entire suites of unique bird species,”; said Dr. David Pashley, American Bird Conservancy vice president for conservation programs, in a news release.

The “;State of the Birds”; report says nearly all native Hawaiian forest birds are declining.

Island birds are threatened by a loss of habitat, disease-carrying mosquitoes and feral pigs and cattle, the report said.

One particularly hard-hit species is the pilala, which is found only on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Its population dropped to 2,200 last year from 6,600 in 2003.

Even so, the American Bird Conservancy says only 4 percent of endangered-species recovery funds were spent on Hawaii species under the Bush administration.

According to the Nature Conservancy, more than a third of the bird species listed under the Endangered Species Act are in Hawaii, but state and federal agencies spent only $30.6 million on endangered birds here between 1996 and 2004, compared with more than $722 million on the mainland.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he hoped to address such “;holes”; in the budget.

“;Considering the heroic efforts that are needed to control habitat loss and degradation, as well as direct threats such as disease and invasion by non-native plants and animals, much more support should be directed toward habitat protection in Hawaii,”; said Sam Gon III, senior scientist and cultural adviser for the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii.

Climate change will make things worse, and work is urgently needed to prevent “;a global tragedy”; of bird loss, the report added.

“;Just as they were when Rachel Carson published 'Silent Spring' nearly 50 years ago, birds today are a bellwether of the health of land, water and ecosystems,”; Salazar said. “;From shorebirds in New England to warblers in Michigan to songbirds in Hawaii, we are seeing disturbing downward population trends that should set off environmental alarm bells.”;

But the study also had some positive developments to report, noting that herons, egrets, ducks and other birds that benefit from wetlands conservation on the mainland were rebounding.

Findings like this “;show us that conservation can really work,”; Salazar said.


Agency reviews species list

The Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment about whether the nene goose and 102 other species in Hawaii should remain on the federal Endangered Species list.

The list includes four other bird species: the Hawaiian dark rumped petrel, found on Hawaii, Maui, Kauai and Lanai; the crested honeycreeper and Maui parrotbill, both found only on Maui; and the Nihoa finch, found only on Nihoa Island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiian hoary bat found on Oahu, Hawaii, Maui and Kauai is the only mammal on the list.

There are also 41 tree snail species and 56 plants on the Hawaii list, which is online at www.fws.gov/endangered.

The Fish and Wildlife Service reviews the classification of endangered and threatened species every five years. Officials consider information about population trends, habitat, conservation measures and other information.

People may submit information until May 15. Comments or questions should be sent to Field Supervisor, Attention: Five-Year Review, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3/122, Box 50088, Honolulu, HI 96850; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).