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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15 August 2018 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community potentially toxic to birds," Banko said. If you're not a Palila, he recommends skip- ping the ma - mane seeds because the alka- loids they contain will likely prove fatal. Rodents avoid the seeds altogether. Palila, though, love the seeds so much that they seek out what Banko calls "restaurant trees", those with an especially tasty or abundant selection. Palila may even be able to tell which trees' seeds have lower levels of the alkaloids, he said. The birds also like to feast on the caterpillars of a native species of moth that lays its eggs in ma - mane seedpods. "The female moths may also be partic - ular about what trees they lay their eggs in, because some trees get hammered by caterpillars in the seeds and others don't," Banko said. "It just opens up all sorts of questions about what's going on in this trophic system." Four-Footed Invaders Over decades, invasive species have thrown the balance of the ma - mane forest system out of whack and hastened the de - cline of Palila and other forest-dependent birds. As Banko explains, ranching took its toll. Introduced sheep turned feral and did heavy browsing damage, reducing available habitat for the birds. In the 1930s and 1940s, a state legis - lative push to protect watersheds led to some 47,000 feral sheep and other ungu- lates being removed from Mauna Kea, and the forest began to regenerate. The reprieve was temporary. "In the 1940s, the whole paradigm for conserva- tion began to shift away from watershed protection," Banko said. "The sheep pop- ulation built back up rapidly and covered the mountain again." Mouflon—a popular game species of sheep introduced in the mid-1960s—compounded the problem. Legal battles in the 1970s and 1980s ultimately forced the state to step up its efforts to contain and remove the sheep. n Land prepared for native forest restoration in the Ka'ohe area on the western slope of Mauna Kea. Photo © Chris Farmer/ABC n An immature Palila eating a ma - mane seed pod. Photo © Carter Snow/USGS That work has paid off for the forest. "It's clear there are way, way fewer animals now," Banko said. "So we're back into the cycle of regeneration." That's good for the trees and, ultimately, conservationists hope, for the birds. It will take time to know. Like other Hawaiian forest bird species that are also food spe - cialists, Palila tend to lay small clutches of eggs, and the population, if it does grow, is likely to grow slowly. The birds have also had to contend with a recent long drought, part of what Banko calls a drying

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