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Forest bird populations at the Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Hawai‘i

April 13, 2022

Endemic Hawaiian forest birds have experienced dramatic population declines. The Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex (BINWRC) was created for conservation of endangered Hawaiian forest birds and their habitats. Surveys have been conducted at two units of BINWRC to monitor forest bird populations and their response to management actions. We analyzed survey data from 1987 to 2019 at the Hakalau Forest Unit (HFU) and from 1995 to 2019 at the Kona Forest Unit (KFU). We analyzed three strata at HFU: open-forest, closed-forest, and pasture, and two strata at the KFU: upper (>1524 m elevation) and lower (<1524 m). In all years, ‘i‘iwi (Drepanis coccinea), ‘apapane (Himatione sanguinea), and Hawai‘i ‘amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens virens) were the most abundant species at HFU. The three endangered forest bird species, Hawai‘i ‘ākepa (Loxops coccineus), ‘alawī (Loxops mana, also known as Hawai‘i creeper) and ‘akiapōlā‘au (Hemignathus wilsoni), had much lower densities. The most abundant species at KFU was ‘apapane, followed by Hawai‘i ‘amakihi and warbling white-eye (Zosterops japonicus) at much lower densities. At HFU we found a continuation of several trends observed in previous analyses from 1987–2012, with most species’ trends upward in pasture stratum, stable in the open-forest stratum, and downward in the closed-forest stratum. However, when we looked at the most recent decade at HFU, more species were showing downward trends in all three strata. At KFU results were mixed, with more species’ trends downward in the upper stratum and more species’ trends upward in the lower stratum. Populations of endangered forest species were either locally extirpated at KFU or in numbers too low to reliably estimate population densities. Both units in the BINWRC are important for conservation of forest birds on Hawai‘i Island, and our results show that HFU supports the majority of the three endangered forest bird species found on Hawai‘i Island. Our analysis also shows the importance of continuous monitoring and timely analysis to track forest bird populations. With the additional data provided by continued surveys, we determined conclusive population trends for species whose trends were previously inconclusive. Knowing current population densities, abundances, and trends allows managers to evaluate and adapt management actions to support forest bird conservation at the BINWRC.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Forest bird populations at the Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Hawai‘i
DOI
Authors Steven J. Kendall, Rachel A Rounds, Richard J. Camp, Ayesha Genz
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Series Title
Series Number 102
Index ID 70230512
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center