Sunday, 18 March 2012

Rare bird breeds at Laysan for 1st time in century

By Audrey Mcavoy
Associated Press

HONOLULU — The endangered millerbird is breeding at Laysan in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for the first time in 100 years, officials said Friday.
Wildlife managers have seen eight pairs of the small, gray-brown feathered birds carrying nesting material and building nests at Laysan, some 940 miles northwest of Honolulu.
They spotted the first eggs last week. Two pairs were incubating eggs and another pair was feeding nestlings as of Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies said in statement.
In September, biologists brought the birds to Laysan from Nihoa Island further south to establish a new population and prevent the extinction of the species.
A related subspecies once lived on Laysan but disappeared in the early 20th century after introduced rabbits destroyed the island's vegetation
Loyal Mehrhoff, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, said the project has been a success so far.
"The birds' rapid acclimation to their new home surpassed our expectations," he said in a statement.
Of the two dozen moved from Nihoa, at least 21 have survived the winter storm season. Three have not been seen for months, but they still may reappear.
The birds were released to their new home on Sept. 10, and quickly began feeding on flies and spiders.
From early on the birds showed signs of mating. The males sang loudly to demarcate their territory to other males. The females fluttered their wings, an indication they're interested in a male bird's territory and the male bird.
The next milestone will be when the chicks leave their nests and forage on their own.
George Wallace of the American Bird Conservancy, a private nonprofit organization helping with the project, said plans are being developed to move a second group of birds from Nihoa to Laysan to ensure the new population has a solid foundation to build on.

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