Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hawaii - Birds in danger of becoming extinct

Latest federal report showed that almost all Hawaiian birds are in danger of becoming extinct. Condition in Hawaii is extremely worrying because one-third of the nation's endangered birds are in Hawaii, with thirty-one Hawaiian bird species beeing listed as endangered, which is much more than in any other US state.

Factors that contribute the most to tremendous decline in Hawaiian bird population are destruction of their habitats by invasive plant species and feral animals like pigs, goats and sheep. Among other factors are diseases, especially those borne by mosquitoes. One of the most troubled bird species is the palila, a yellow-crowned songbird that lives on the upper slopes of Mauna Kea. In less than seven years time its population experienced decrease by more than 60 percent from 6,600 in 2002 to 2,200 last year.

Additional problem for palila is the fact that grazing feral sheep ruin mamane trees, which provide palila birds with their preferred food: mamane seed pods. Food shortage is very likely the largest factor that caused such a tremendous decline, and something has to be done about it. The Fish and Wildlife Service plans to fence off an area on Mauna Kea, and remove sheep from the fenced area, to give the palila an environment where its population can grow once again.

Restoring bird habitats and ensuring enough food are key factors to prevent further bird population decline. The main problem is that in most cases there is lack of funding from government which makes restoration efforts extremely difficult. With adequate funding environmentalists would be able to recover most, if not all, of the bird species that are endangered. We are not far from the real ecological disaster on Hawai.

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