Birder's Guide

AUG 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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13 August 2018 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community Washington, D.C. Jennifer Howard (1896), or the 'O - 'u - —the most abundant hon- eycreeper in all Hawaii in the 1800s, but gone from the Island of Hawaii in 1986 and com - pletely extinct in 1989. With their golden heads and thick bills—an adaptation that allows them to crack open the tough seed pods of the ma - mane tree, a pri - mary food source—Palila were once known on both O'ahu and Kaua'i. They were familiar enough to be invoked in an 1882 song com - posed in honor of a visit by Queen Emma to Mauna Kea, which features lines about "the sweet voices of the Palila, those birds that dwell upon the Mountain". But those sweet voices, traditionally thought to be harbingers of rain, have been heard less and less often in recent decades as introduced sheep and other introduced species took a toll on the native forests. For a relatively big bird—6 or 7 inches long—Palila can be tough to see. The species used to inhabit O'ahu and Kaua'i, as well as the Big Island. Today they're found only in a 25-square-mile area on Mauna Kea. P alila have been the focus of conservation concern since 1967, when the species be- came one of the first to be listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Critical habitat was designated in 1977. Thanks to an annual survey carried out every year since 1980, re- searchers know a lot about how the Palila pop- ulation has fared over the past three decades. The short answer is: Not well. Palila have declined from 4,000–5,000 birds in the 1990s to fewer than 2,000 today. "That's not very many when we're talk - ing about the entire global population of the

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