In 2007 and 2008, Eric built over 30 nest boxes for the Puaiohi, an endangered thrush endemic to Kauai, and, in collaboration with the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project, placed them along several streams in the Alakai Wildnerness Area. One of the main threats to this forest bird is predation by alien rats on eggs, chicks, and even adult females at the nest. The goal of the nest box program is to provide nest sites that are safer from rats, and eventually to possibly expand the range of Puaiohi by providing nest sites in areas that lack the natural cliff nest sites usually used by this species.
Puaiohi female in nest box, Kawaikoi Stream, 10 June 2011
I am pleased to report that this year two of the nest boxes along Kawaikoi Stream have been used by Puaiohi. Project staff told me that one nest was successful and fledged a chick in late May. We checked on the second nest box on Friday June 10, and it contained an active nest with 2 small chicks! Although only a small number of boxes have been used so far, hopefully this is just the beginning.
Our office is now generates 100% of its power with solar energy thanks to photovoltaic panels installed by Revolusun (www.revolusun.com). Pacific Rim Conservation now saves several tons of CO2 from being put into the atmosphere each year.
AVIAN ECOLOGIST, Honolulu, Hawaii. An avian ecologist position is available in Honolulu, Hawaii from Pacific Rim Conservation, a small company dedicated to studying and conserving the biota of the Pacific region. Primary duties will be management, research, and surveys for the endangered Oahu Elepaio, including 1) controlling alien rats using snap traps and bait stations; 2) measuring demographic responses of elepaio populations to rat control by searching for and monitoring nests and resighting color-banded birds to estimate survival; 3) assisting with mist-netting and banding of elepaio; 4) conducting surveys to determine current distribution and abundance of elepaio and locate additional sites for recovery efforts; and 5) data entry, basic statistical analyses, and writing technical reports and manuscripts for publication. The avian ecologist will work with the principle investigator, Dr. Eric VanderWerf, and help to supervise an avian conservation technician. Secondary duties will occasionally include assisting with monitoring and management of Laysan Albatross and Red-tailed Tropicbirds. Minimum Qualifications: Masters Degree in a biological or natural resources related field, Ph.D. preferred; at least 2 years experience in avian field ecology; experience with Hawaiian forest birds, nest searching, mist-netting, and predator control preferred; ability to drive a 4wd vehicle on rough roads. Physical Requirements: ability to hike over rough terrain in hot, humid conditions carrying a backpack weighing up to 35 pounds for 8 hours per day. Salary: $3,000-$3,500 per month depending on qualifications, medical and dental benefits provided. Dates of employment: 1 January 2011 to 30 June 2012, some flexibility, possibility for extension pending performance and funding.
This position is now closed.
In July 2009 Eric submitted a proposal to the American Ornithologists’ Union checklist committee recommending that the Elepaio be split into 3 species, one each on Kauai, Oahu, and Hawaii. This recommendation was based on research that showed Elepaio on each island differ morphologically, genetically, and behaviorally. Copies of these research papers can be downloaded from the publications page of the Pacific Rim Conservation website (pdf #s 65 and 52).
The AOU has voted to accept this proposal, and the split will become official in July 2010. The official checklist can be viewed and searched on the AOU website: http://www.aou.org/checklist/north/ This change will give birders two more species to tick on their lists, but much more importantly, it will more accurately represent the evolutionary ecology of Elepaio, facilitate individual assessment of their conservation status on each island, and hopefully help create more support for conservation of the many endemic species in Hawaii. The Oahu Elepaio is already listed as an endangered subspecies under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but this change in taxonomy should increase its recovery priority. Under the IUCN system, the Oahu Elepaio will likely qualify as critically endangered due to its small population size and rapid decline.
As part of a regional effort to continue long term Laysan albatross monitoring throughout the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Rim Conservation in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge co-taught an intensive two day long Laysan albatross biology and banding workshop to help train volunteers and refuge staff how to band these large seabirds. PRC has been monitoring and banding Laysan albatross on Oahu and throughout the main Hawaiian Islands for the last seven years and is excited to ensure that this work continues on all the nesting islands. Over twenty biologists and volunteers on the island of Kauai were instructed in albatross biology and handling/banding techniques. In the end all the Laysan albatross chicks on Kauai’s north shore were accounted for and banded and over 200 birds were re-sighted as part of a long term mark-recapture program initiated by the USFWS and the US Geological Survey. Banding birds with a unique combination of bands allows individuals to be identified so that reproductive success, survival and other demographic parameters can be monitored over multiple years to assist in their conservation. All chicks on Oahu and Kauai should begin fledging at the end of June and will hopefully return as adults 3-5 years from now.
Akikiki. Photo by Eric VanderWerf
Two bird species endemic to Kauai, the `Akikiki or Kaua`i Creeper and the `Akeke`e or Kaua`i `Akepa were recently listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To see a press release and the final listing rule, go to http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/kauai48species.html.
Eric petitioned the Service to list these species in October 2007, and he enlisted aid of the American Bird Conservancy to help promote the petition and the plight of these imperiled birds. A copy of the petition can be found on the Pacific Rim Conservation website, under Publications and Reports, number 53.
Akekee male. Photo by Eric VanderWerf
The `Akikiki and `Akeke`e were listed as part of a package that included 48 species on Kaua`i. The Service took a while to finalize the listing, longer than legally allowed, but it is good to finally see them get appropriate legal protection.
However, simply listing these species as endangered will not lead to their recovery. Conserving these species will require long-term commitments to protecting their habitat from invasive alien plants and animals, and further investigating the causes of their decline.
As part of the ongoing monitoring to measure what the effects will be of predator removal on the ecosystem at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, Pacific Rim Conservation in collaboration with the Hawaii Department of
Yellow faced bee on an Ohai flower. Photo by Pat Aldrich
Land and Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program, conducted an intensive three day long biological survey in March as part of the Kaena Point Ecosystem Restoration Project. Insects were collected and identified from points throughout the reserve to document whether the removal of rats will cause changes in proportions of native insects, such as yellow faced bees, and non-native insects, such as ants. Small soil samples were also collected to determine whether increases in seabird numbers will impact the nutrients in the soils and the marine intertidal habitat was surveyed to document whether rats are having an impact on marine invertebrates, such as opihi. Previous surveys have already been done on the plants and birds at Kaena to look at similar questions. Overall, the removal of non-native predators, such as rats, mongoose and cats are expected to have a large benefit to the native species found at Kaena Point.
Tawharanui predator proof fence
PRC recently returned from presenting at the Island Invasives Conference in Auckland, New Zealand in February 2010. The focus of the conference was on the ecological, social and economic impacts of invasive species on island ecosystems with a focus on techniques used to remove invasive species from island ecosystems. As part of the conference, we visited various predator-proof fences throughout New Zealand as well as several offshore island predator-free sanctuaries to learn more about the techniques used in New Zealand and how we can apply them in Hawaii.
The recent paper by Lindsay and her co-authors on the foraging patterns and plastic ingestion rates of Laysan albatross on Oahu and Kure Atoll (pdf 67) was written up by multiple media outlets including the Discovery Channel (http://news.discovery.com/animals/albatross-plastic-garbage-patch.html), scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=plastic-plastic-everywhere-nor-any-2009-10-27) and a radio interview on national public radio (http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archives/09-10/qq-2009-11-07.html). We found that by following birds at sea with miniaturized tracking devices and analyzing their stomach contents, that birds from Kure Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands ingested ten times the amount of plastic compared to birds on Oahu, primarily because birds from Kure spent more time over Asian waters which contained more plastic.
In March 2009, an entire colony of Laysan albatross disappeared as a result of human interference. For more information visit: http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/June-2009/What-Happened-to-the-Birds/#