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Factors promoting the recolonization of Oahu, Hawaii, by Bristle-thighed Curlews

September 18, 2019

Suitable habitat for Arctic-breeding migratory shorebirds is decreasing at their traditional wintering islands and atolls in the Central Pacific Flyway (i.e., Oceania) due to habitat degradation, reclamation, and sea-level rise. To maintain the size and resiliency of their populations, migratory shorebirds will need to expand their winter ranges by either colonizing new sites or recolonizing old sites from which they were extirpated. Bristle-thighed Curlews (Numenius tahitiensis) are long-distance migratory shorebirds that breed only in Alaska and winter across a vast region of the Central Pacific, typically on remote, unpopulated islands and atolls. Historically, Bristle-thighed Curlews were considered uncommon transients on the main Hawaiian Islands, but in the mid-1990s, curlews became regular visitors to Oahu and subsequently began wintering at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu Island in Hawaii. Curlew numbers at this site grew steadily from <5 birds in the mid-1990s to an estimated 126 winter residents (95%CI 108–147) in 2013–2014. Timing of the recolonization event coincided with the establishment of a fenced pond complex that was managed for endangered waterbirds by maintaining areas of shallow water and low vegetation. High rates of apparent annual survival exhibited by adults and subadults (0.86–0.95) confirmed the suitability of the Refuge to curlews. Our results suggest that curlews in Oceania can naturally recolonize wintering islands, a trait that may be key to the survival of this species of conservation concern in an era of rising sea levels.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Factors promoting the recolonization of Oahu, Hawaii, by Bristle-thighed Curlews
DOI 10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00785
Authors T. Lee Tibbitts, Daniel R. Ruthrauff, Jared G. Underwood, Vijay P. Patil
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Ecology and Conservation
Index ID 70206155
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB