Sunday, September 19, 2010

Birds and Drought: Palila

The Palila (Loxioides bailleui), an Endangered forest bird endemic to the “big island” of Hawaii, has declined 75 percent since 2003, to a population of 1,200 birds in 2010.

Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey.
According to government officials, the Palila’s fate is due to a combination of factors:
  • impacts of feral goats and sheep (ungulates) on the mamane trees that the birds depend on for much of their diet,

  • effects of severe drought on the bird’s food supply, and

  • predation by nonnative feral cats.
  • In response to the crisis, conservation agencies have proposed a monumental project to erect a fence encircling the entirety of the designated Critical Habitat for Palila on Mauna Kea, with the goal of excluding exotic ungulates from the area.

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