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A first: Endangered puaiohi birds fledge four chicks in the wild

A highly endangered native Hawaiian bird species has taken a small but significant step back from the brink of extinction. USGS biologists monitoring 14 captive-reared puaiohi released into the wild earlier this year by The Peregrine Fund say the birds are nesting and have already fledged four young.

The young puaiohi are the first endangered Hawaiian forest birds to be raised in the wild by birds raised in captivity. This year's successful nesting makes biologists optimistic that a recovery program for the puaiohi will ultimately succeed.

"We are all excited that at least seven of the birds have nested this year," said USGS field biologist Erik Tweed of the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center. "The release effort at this time looks promising, in terms of re-establishing a self-sustaining population of puaiohi in their former range."

Tweed says that released birds have built 14 nests to date in the Alakai Wilderness Preserve on the island of Kauai. Some nests remain active or have already produced fledglings-chicks capable of leaving the nest.

Apart from the released birds, only 200-300 individuals of this small unique Hawaiian bird species survive in the wild. Biologists fear that at such low numbers, the population cannot sustain itself. In addition to the remnant wild population, a captive flock of 16 puaiohi is maintained at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center near Volcanoes National Park by The Peregrine Fund, a private conservation organization.

The Peregrine Fund reared 23 puaiohi in 1998, and in January and February of this year brought 14 of the young birds to Kauai. The birds were held in a hacking tower - a release cage -for one week and then released into their new home in the rain forest. The
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Contact: Erik Tweed
Erik_tweed@usgs.gov
808-335-5084
United States Geological Survey
9-Jul-1999


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