What We Do
Given that the mission of the Kaua'i Forest Bird Recovery Project is to promote knowledge, appreciation, and conservation of Kaua'i's Forest Birds, our organization has three primary facets: research, management, and outreach. Scheduled activities for FY13 are detailed in our work plan.
Our main focus is researching the demography and behavioral ecology of the three endangered forest bird species on Kaua'i, Puaiohi, 'Akikiki and 'Akeke'e, while opportunistically collecting data on other native forest bird species. Demographic studies entail assessing population size and trends via audio-visual surveys throughout the range of each species, as well as assessing vital rates, such as survival and reproductive success, in study plots. Behavioral ecology studies document differences in foraging behavior and diet, nesting behavior, and habitat use among different sites. Ultimately we aim to determine which of the potential threats to these species – disease, introduced predators, or loss of habitat and food resources – most affect vital rates and important behaviors so we can target these threats with conservation efforts.
Much of our research involves “natural experiments”, in which we assess the focal species’ vital rates and behavior across environmental gradients of disease, topography, invasiveness by non-native species in the Alaka'i. However, we have recently partnered with the Kaua'i Watershed Alliance, led by The Nature Conservancy, to document the effects of removing non-native feral pigs on native forest vegetation and birds within a newly fenced area of the Alaka'i. We are using a Before-After-Control-Treatment experimental design, in which we monitor plants and birds inside and outside the fence before and after pig removal. We have completed our second year of pre-removal surveys, and presented these data at the Hawai'i Conservation Conference in August. We have just won back-to-back grants from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to conduct a similar experiment in partnership with the Kokee Resource Conservation Project, a group responsible for removing invasive plant species throughout the Alaka'i. With this funding, we have completed the pre-removal surveys, and will be conducting post-removal surveys this spring.
To date, KFBRP has participated in two major conservation projects for Puaiohi: developing and installing nest boxes, and monitoring survival of captive-bred birds released into the wild.
Early researchers hypothesized that nesting sites for Puaiohi, which nest in shallow crevices in cliff walls, might limit their distribution. In an attempt to expand their range and population size, researchers developed and installed nest boxes in low density areas of Puaiohi. Later efforts by Dr. Eric Vanderwerf focused on developing and distributing rat-proof nest boxes in the same areas. Unfortunately, for almost 10 years Puaiohi did not use the boxes, and we were thinking of giving up the effort when suddenly, two pairs used two different designs in spring 2011!
Since neither of those models were rat proof, we tested and designed new boxes in winter 2012 and 2013 and found that modifying roofs and skirts on our previous designs greatly reduced accessibility by rats. In Spring 2012 and 2013 we added over 50 new rat resistant boxes to KWK and MOH. Current research on nestboxes is looking at microclimates in natural used nest cavities and trying to modify nest boxes to mimic these micro climates and hopefully become more attractive to Puaiohi. In 2013 we also designed and implemented in box sensors that track visitations in nest boxes. Barbara and Adam both presented on these sensor designs in fall of 2013 and their presentations can be seen in the Reports and Publications section. We are partnering with Dr. Liba Pejchar of Colorado State University to perform this activity, with funding from the American Bird Conservancy.
Read an article on an endangered Hawaiian songbird that hatched in an artificial nest - ABC News Release 9/6/11
Release of Captive Bred Birds
In the 1990's, the Puaiohi was thought to be on the brink of extinction, so conservation biologists from the USGS and Zoological Society of San Diego started a captive breeding program to act as an insurance policy and potentially add birds to the wild population.
A handful of eggs were collected and incubated to found a small captive population which has surpassed all our expectations. As of 2012—the 14th year of releases—222 of their offspring been released in the forests of the Alaka'i.
After the birds are released, KFBRP staff use radio-tracking and resighting of uniquely color-banded birds to monitor their survival and movements across the forest. We also look for evidence of nesting by these birds near the release area, and have confirmed breeding of several birds. In fact, one of the nest boxes (see above) was used by a captive bred bird last year. However, because there is no evidence that these birds survive >1 year post-release, this project is on hold.
To acheive our goal of promoting appreciation and conservation of Kaua'i's forest birds, we are actively engaged in community outreach:
KFBRP sets up a booth at community fairs such as Arbor Day, Banana Poka Roundup, and the Orchids and Art Festival throughout the year to increase awareness of our native forest birds and the issues they face. Our booth consists of a diorama of forest birds in the Alaka'i, which brings the forest to the people since it is so difficult for many people to access the heart of the Alaka'i; brochures; hand-drawn coloring books of native birds; temporary tatoos of native animals and plants; and face painting.
In February 2011, we held our first annual Hawaiian Blessing of the start of our field season and our work in the Alaka'i. On a beautiful morning, which awarded stunning views of Kalalau Valley and the entire Alaka'i Plateau, Keahi Manea and Heu'i Wyeth from Ka'Imi Na'Auao 'O Hawai'i Nei Institute (http://www.kaimi.org/) performed songs and dances invoking the elders and the gods to watch over us during our field work. We particularly appreciated the Kolea dance!
Ka'Imi Na'Auao 'O Hawai'i Nei Institute joined us for another successful Hawaiian Blessing in February 2012. As described in this article in the Garden Island, chants and dances with Hawiian drumming were performed to bless the 14th release of captive-bred Puaiohi and the start of our 2012 field season. A beautiful mele about the Puaiohi was written and performed especially for this event. Thanks to everyone who made this year's blessing a great success!
Forest Akamai Camp
In June 2011, KFBRP participated in Forest Akamai Camp, run by the Storybook Theatre in Koke’e State Park for youth 7-16 yrs old. The goal of this camp is to raise awareness of Kaua'i’s forest birds, and to teach the coming generation the science and techniques of ecology, ornithology and conservation biology. For our efforts, Storybook Theatre and KFBRP were presented the David Boynton Award by the Board of Directors of the Koke'e Discovery Center.
Public Presentations and Workshops
KFBRP staff are available to spend time in the classroom with kids of all ages or to present lectures on relevant topics to older audiences.