Nesting success of native and introduced forest birds on the island of Kaua‘i

Submitted by Johan on 4 December 2015.

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When I signed up to move to Kaua‘i and began an M.Sc. project studying the nesting biology of two recently-listed endangered forest bird species, the ‘Akikiki and ‘Akeke‘e, I knew I was in for a rewarding challenge!

Having previously spent a few years searching for nests of another endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper, the Maui Parrotbill, I knew that working in the notoriously wet “Alakai Swamp” in the central mountains of Kaua‘i would be a difficult place to find the nests of rare birds.

Nest searching in the high-elevation Hawaiian rainforests can be summed-up in one sentence, the first time which I heard while interviewing for my first field tech position on Maui, “It will take you sometimes two hours to walk a mile, all the while trying to identify birds through your binoculars while someone dumps buckets of water on your head.” And, my study species on Kaua‘i hit us with a double-whammy, nesting so high that most nests required a spotting scope to be effectively monitored.

Having some prescience about the small number of nests I could expect to find for ‘Akikiki and ‘Akeke‘e, I decided that I would need to find a way to collect more nesting data if I hoped to address some gaps in our knowledge about Kaua‘i forest bird nest survival. Bolstering my dataset came about by first – incorporating several additional species into my research, including the four featured in this paper, and second – sending out a call for volunteer help which was necessary to increase the scope of the study. Five volunteer field biologists, two in 2012 and three in 2013, flew to Kaua‘i from different locations in the mainland U.S., Canada, and New Zealand and endured an intensive field season, sometimes working for several consecutive weeks in cold and rainy conditions, and always coming home to a field camp surrounded in mud. Not only did they devote four months of their lives to this research in a challenging environment, but long hours in the field and constant discussions of the science, methods, and species involved in this project reflected their efforts as passionate contributors to this research. Thanks to those volunteers, we were able to publish the first multi-species nest survival study of a forest bird community in a high-elevation Hawaiian rainforest, and we could not have done it without them!

Ruby Hammond (Author)

(Photos by Mitch Walters)


Read this interesting study here!