Endangered Crows Released in Hawaii Bring Hope for Recovery

The ‘Alalā, otherwise known as Hawaiian crows, have been extinct in the wild for more than a decade, but their advocates are hoping that may change one day soon.

The ‘Alalā was once widespread throughout Hawaii, but a combination of threats — habitat loss, disease, non-native predators and conflict with farmers — drove their population down at an alarming rate.

By the late 1970s, there were only estimated to be 50 to 150 left. The last two known individuals vanished from the wild in 2002.

Although they were declared extinct in the wild, a captive breeding program had begun years earlier and now thanks to the dedicated efforts of conservationists, a small group is back in their forest home.

They were released late last year at the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve, and their advocates hope they represent the first of a new population for these critically endangered birds. A total of 11 ‘Alalā were released in two groups. Two females and four males were first released in September 2017, followed by two females and three males in October.

Since they took off from a forest aviary, they’ve been monitored daily by a team from the Hawaii Endangered Conservation Program, a field program of the San Diego Zoo Global (SDZG), which raised them at two breeding facilities it manages on Hawaii and Maui.

Although it’s only the beginning of a long road to a full recovery, this month the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) announced that they are all thriving in the wild.

The news is especially good following past releases that experienced some major setbacks. Winter storms and predators, particularly by the ‘Io, or Hawaiian hawk, hampered previous efforts to return them to the wild. But changes were made and extensive anti-predator training was provided to the individuals who are now back in the wild. Those efforts seem to be paying off.

According to the DLNR, there’s now evidence that they’re identifying the ‘Io and taking evasive action. They’re also venturing out and foraging more for native fruits, instead of relying on feeders that have been provided, although the feeders will stay in case they need the extra help.

“These birds have adjusted very well to their forest home and it’s just been really inspiring for all of us on the project to see and hear ‘Alalā in the wild again,” said Jackie Gaudioso-Levita, project coordinator of The ‘Alalā Project.

According to the DLNR, there are now over 125 ʻAlalā in captivity, and preparations are being made to release even more. Hopefully those who are returned to their rightful place in the wild will continue to thrive and their population will recover. Not only is helping the ‘Alalā recover good for them, their presence will also benefit the ecosystem because they help spread the seeds of native plants, helping revitalize forests.

Photo credit: Hawaii DLNR

107 comments

KimJ M
KimJ M1 months ago

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KimJ M
KimJ M1 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M1 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M1 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M1 months ago

Tfs

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson2 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson2 months ago

ty

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Kelly S
Past Member 3 months ago

sooo cute!

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Kelly S
Past Member 3 months ago

poor birds

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Kelly S
Past Member 3 months ago

awwwwwwwwww

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