A team of biologists from government and private agencies has launched an effort to establish a second population of Nihoa millerbirds (Acrocephalus familiaris kingi). If all goes well, two dozen millerbirds will be captured on Nihoa Island and then carried 650 miles by ship to Laysan Island, a journey that is expected to last three days.
Millerbirds were historically known to inhabit Laysan, but the Laysan millerbird was wiped out in the early 20th century, when non-native rabbits denuded the island.
“For thousands of years, the Nihoa millerbird miraculously survived low numbers, catastrophes including a severe brush fire in the late 1800s, and, most importantly, existence on a single tiny island,” said Sheila Conant, the University of Hawai`i zoologist who pioneered the study of millerbirds. “This translocation could more than double the total number of birds by establishing a second population on another island, and provide insurance for the species.”
Partners in the effort are the Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Bird Conservancy. Additional support comes from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Hawai`i, Pacific Rim Conservation, the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Research Center, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
(Photo by Mark McDonald, USFWS)