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

January 1, 2023

Endemic Hawaiian forest birds have experienced dramatic population declines. The Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex (Refuge Complex) was established for the conservation of endangered forest birds and their habitats. Surveys have been conducted at two units of the Refuge Complex 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 afforested-pasture, and two strata at KFU: upper (>1,524 m elevation) and lower (<1,524 m). In all years, ‘i‘iwi Vestiaria coccinea, ‘apapane Himatione sanguinea, and Hawai'i ‘amakihi Chlorodrepanis virens virens were the most abundant species at HFU. 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 at much lower densities. We found a continuation of several trends observed in previous analyses at HFU up to 2012, with most species’ trends upward in afforested-pasture stratum, stable in the open-forest stratum, and downward in the closed-forest stratum. However, more species were showing downward trends in all three strata during the most recent decade. Results were mixed at KFU, with most species’ trends downward in the upper stratum and upward in the lower stratum. Populations of endangered species were either locally extirpated at KFU or in numbers too low to reliably estimate population abundance. The Refuge Complex is important for conservation of forest birds on Hawai'i Island. Our results show that HFU supports the majority of three endangered forest bird species. Threats to forest birds at the Refuge Complex appear to be having a negative impact. These threats include habitat loss, disease, feral ungulates, and nonnative predators. Continuing and enhancing management actions, such as forest restoration and removal of invasive species, could help mitigate these impacts and allow the Refuge Complex to remain a key site for forest bird conservation in Hawai'i.

Publication Year 2023
Title Forest bird populations at the Big Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Hawai'i
DOI 10.3996/JFWM-22-035
Authors Steven J. Kendall, Rachel A. Rounds, Richard J. Camp, Ayesha Genz, Thomas Cady, Donna L. Ball
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Index ID 70253912
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center