VIDEO: Hawaii’s palila bird population plummets

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Rare songbird’s numbers continue to go down, only about 1,200 left

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September 21, 2010 – Mauna Kea, Hawaii

Video by David Corrigan | Voice of Tim Bryan

A massive drop in the population of the endangered palila bird is being reported by state and federal organizations.

A recent count conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the palila population has dropped from 4,400 in 2003 to about 1,200 now. That amounts to a 75% decrease.

The palila is part of the honeycreeper family and lives on the slopes of Mauna Kea, where seeds and caterpillars from mamane trees comprise the bird’s main diet.

However, goats and mouflon sheep – as well as the drought – have taken its toll on the mamane forests. Feral cats in the area also pose a constant threat.

The government plans to build a 59-mile long, six-foot high fence to surround the Palila Critical Habitat on Mauna Kea to keep predators out of the area.

This video featured shows the palila count that was conducted early this year. Biologists Paul Banko from US Geological Survey and Dave Leonard of Hawai`i State Fish and Wildlife guided our camera lens in the right direction to spot the rare songbird.

The footage was filmed in partnership with Laurie Sumiye, the producer behind the Palila Project. More on that effort here: palilaproject.wordpress.com

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4 Comments

  1. taylor sumida said:

    Im curious to know how much tree’s are needed to support the bird? There seems to be a lot of them up there, you also accuse the sheep and feral animals. But yet you have been eradicating them quarterly for years on end and the bird population is still steadily decreasing. You want to put in a fence to protect one bird while the tree’s are dying because of the animals? The largest of the mamane tree’s are sheep havens and are very full with life as the fountain grass cant grown under or around them. Also you claim that 10 percent of the diet of the sheep is in fact the mamane, So with that what is the other 90 percent of their diet and how is it affecting the palila bird? How long do you do your studies? Are the constant consistent with you all being in the mountain days and weeks on end or a once a year visit as the University has been conducting?

  2. Kurt said:

    I live in Volcano village and in 2006 could hear birds in the morning with their singing. Today I woke up at 6am on Aug 24 2011 and opened the window. I heard NOTHING! It was quiet and no birds were singing or flying. What happened? Was there a mass extinction? Has something happened in the last few weeks? It is like a horror movie because it is still and quiet. I am very concerned………Does anyone know the name of the bird scientist in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

  3. Taylor Sumida said:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t Water play a very important part in a birds survival? There was a drought not too long ago and every single bird out there is trying to survive. Also… I though the Palila was only in Kaohe and upper parts near Kimole?
    Live firing by the military cant affect the birds numbers they dont live fire in brushy area’s. They cant take the risk of a fire. All though they pay a ton of money to have people come in with weed eaters to manage the grass that was being managed for many of years by goats and sheep. But I guess they are right after all they have biologist who say they are-

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