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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.”




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