Forwarded by Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, and
Christina Simmons, San Diego Zoo
The forests of the Hawaiian
Islands are the most threatened bird habitats in the United
States according to a new report Top 20 Most Threatened Bird
Habitats in the United States published today by American
Bird Conservancy (ABC). The continued threat to the species
that live in these habitats is occurring despite efforts
to save them by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and nongovernmental
conservation organizations like the San Diego Zoo.
At the Keahou Bird Conservation Center, we work to save a number
of bird species such as the Alala and the Maui Parrotbill,” said
Alan Lieberman, director of the Center for the San Diego Zoo. “Saving
these species is important but meaningless if the habitats they
come from are also not protected.”
According to the study, (which can be viewed online at www.abcbirds.org/habitatreport.pdf
) colonization, agriculture, and logging are responsible for
the loss of over half of Hawai‘i’s native forests.
The report indicates that the greatest imminent threats are invasive
animals such as cats and pigs, invasive plants, and avian diseases.
As habitats disappear so do the species that depend on them.
There are 30 Hawaiian birds listed under the Endangered Species
Act as endangered or threatened. Species listed by the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service as being of special concern include the
Akekee, Hawai‘i and Kaua‘i Creepers, Akiapolaau,
Maui Parrotbill, Nihoa Finch, Omao, O‘ahu Elepaio, and
the Nihoa Millerbird.
Many Hawaiians love to watch birds, whether on organized outings
or in their own backyards,” said George Fenwick, president
of American Bird Conservancy. “Without stronger action
to protect bird habitats in Hawai‘i, there will be fewer
and fewer of these wondrous creatures for everyone to enjoy.”
The Hawaiian Islands are home to many endemic bird species found
nowhere else on earth. When Captain Cook landed in the islands
in 1778, there were at least 71 endemic bird species. Since then,
at least 24 of those species have gone extinct, several others
are on the brink of disappearing forever, and many others are
dependent on intensive conservation measures.
The Po‘ouli, a small bird species native to the Alakai
forests, is recently believed to have become extinct when the
last known individual died at the Keauhou Center in 2004. “The
Po‘ouli represents all those species which cannot be saved
by traditional captive breeding,” said Alan Lieberman. “These
are the species we need to save by protecting their homes.”
ABC indicates that there are economic as well as aesthetic reasons
for conserving these endangered habitats. Bird watching and other
wildlife viewing by 66 million Americans contribute $43 billion
annually to the nation’s economy, according to a 2006 report
by the Outdoor Industry Foundation. Retail sales of birding gear
and birding trips and state and federal tax receipts comprise
a substantial portion of this.
Hawai‘i benefits from a large number of birders who go
to the islands specifically to see the unique birds,” said
Fenwick. “As well as a biological imperative, it makes
good economic sense to conserve Hawai‘i’s native
habitats. In addition to the direct economic benefits of bird
watching, birds play an important role in maintaining the ecosystems
on which humans ultimately depend.”