Birder's Guide

MAY 2017

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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The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project has plans to repatriate Maui Parrotbills to the drier leeward slopes of the island within Nakula Natural Reserve Area, shown here in 2012, before reforestation efforts. Photo © Chris Farmer Continued from page 40 Maui's Kiwikiu 42 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2017 gulates. Still, the International Union for Conservation of Nature currently lists the species as critically endangered. "These birds are confined to about 50 square kilometers of really wet rainfor- est," says Dr. Hanna Mounce, coordina- tor for the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project (MFBRP), which was formed in 1997 and has focused on saving Maui Parrotbills since 2006. "They are there because that is the only pristine forest left on Maui—but it is really hard to be a 20-gram bird living in an area that gets 300 inches of rain." The species' low density in a marginal habitat means that releasing more birds won't help the situation by itself. "We really can't sustain more birds within the forest we have," Mounce says. So the solution isn't more birds. It's more—and more suitable—forest. Reestablishing a native habitat entails repatriating native species and excluding non-native ones, both plant and animal— a daunting task. This is exactly what the MFBRP took on when it first formed. Operating out of an old warden's house from a defunct jail, a small group of pas- sionate people has been working towards this lofty goal. With support from the University of Hawaii and other sources, in 2012 the MFBRP finally set about creat- ing that more suitable forest. Progress has been steady. MFBRP and State of Hawaii partners have planted more than 53,000 native plants in a 420-acre fenced area of the Nakula Natural Area Reserve on lee - ward Haleakala - , and 10,000 more are due to be planted this year. A captive breeding program was estab- lished to rebuild the population, and the first chick hatched in 2003. In January 2018, the MBFRP plans to repatriate the first group of Maui Parrotbills. These in- dividuals will come from the two captive populations maintained by San Diego Zoo Global as well as individuals taken from wild populations. After this point, the project's focus will pivot to support- ing breeding and self-sustenance within the new populations. It took almost 200 years for the Maui Parrotbill's forests to disappear, and re- storing that habitat won't happen over- night. "It might take 25 years to have a really beautiful koa forest," Mounce says, "but we still have to start now." When Maui Parrotbill populations flourish, it will signify that water re- sources have stabilized, soil integrity has improved, and native forests are once again intact—thanks to conservation ac- tion and community support. To learn more about the efforts of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, contact Hanna Mounce at mounce@hawaii.edu. Unlike most other native Hawaiian birds, such as the 'I'iwi and the 'Akiapo - la - 'au, it seems the Maui Parrotbill did not have a native Hawaiian name. Or, at least, the name was lost over time as the birds quickly disappeared from most of the island. After years of observation, the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project organized an official naming cer - emony in 2010. There, the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee dubbed it the Kiwikiu . It is named for its curved, sickle- shaped bill, its whistle, and the cold wind blowing over the mountain on which it lives. During the naming cere - mony, Sam Ohu Gon III, a local expert in Hawaiian culture, shared a chant that reveres the bird, its beauty, and the beauty of its home. From the lofty summit of Ha - na Mountain The high, dark forest flank is visible However, it is obscured by the strata of clouds The upper windward flank of countless birds is hidden The echo of many bird voices comes up from below And the Ko'olau district is brimming with birds But harken now to this that strikes the ear The clear call is carried by the kiu mountain wind The call of the understory shrubs it is heard By the birds of the wet forest so By the 'I'iwi that is dampened by the rain By the 'A - kohekohe grumbling in the forest By the yellow Nukupu'u with its curved bill Oh Kiwikiu Oh Kiwikiu You're such an outstanding bird and blessed with beauty Oh Kiwikiu Oh Kiwikiu Your stout curved bill is always snapping Approach and occupy your perch Here is a thriving bird And may you thrive indeed —Sam Ohu Gon III

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