In Hawaii, native birds face ‘disaster’

By The Associated Press Published: March 21, 2009
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HONOLULU — Hawaii’s native avian population is in peril, with nearly all the state’s birds in danger of becoming extinct, a federal report says.

One-third of the nation’s endangered birds are in Hawaii, the Interior Department report shows. Thirty-one Hawaiian bird species are listed as endangered, more than anywhere else in the country.

"Hawaii is (a) borderline ecological disaster,” said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which helped produce the study

Hawaii’s native birds are threatened by the destruction of their habitats by invasive plant species and feral animals like pigs, goats and sheep.

Diseases, especially those borne by mosquitoes, are another killer.

One of those in trouble is the palila, a yellow-crowned songbird that lives on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea. Its population plunged by more than 60 percent from 6,600 in 2002 to 2,200 last year.

Habitat loss and predators are part of the problem, said Holly Freifeld, a vertebrate recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Honolulu.

Scott Fretz, wildlife program manager at the state’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, said he was confident habitat restoration efforts could help restore all of Hawaii’s endangered bird species, excluding those that have already become extinct.

"The basic, fundamental problem that we have is a lack of funding to do what we need to do,” the wildlife expert said.


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ALSO ...
Energy adds to decline

Energy production of all types — wind, ethanol and mountaintop coal mining — is contributing to steep drops in bird populations, a new government report says. The report chronicles a four-decade decline in the country’s bird populations and provides many reasons for it, from suburban sprawl to the spread of exotic species to global warming. In the last 40 years, populations of birds living on prairies, deserts and at sea have declined between 30 and 40 percent. Scientists say the report should signal the Obama administration to act cautiously as it seeks to expand renewable energy production.

Associated Press

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