The highs and lows of studying endangered species

(From the notebook of seasonal volunteer Aaron Hulsey)

Earlier this season I had the privilege to observe the development of nesting behavior in a young ‘Akikiki.The bird in question was MV/RE:BL/AL, a second-year ‘Akikiki that had been banded earlier in the season and is one of three banded ‘Akikiki in existence. This bird had also been fitted with a radio transmitter and followed as well. It was found to wander over a large area of the study plot, ranging many hundreds of meters both upstream and downstream from where it was originally banded. When I found the bird,it seemed to be beginning to build a nest. It would gather moss and lichen from the branches of a large ohia and then place the nesting material in a fork of the ohia. Though it seemed to be building a nest,it didn’t do so very well. Much of the material it placed in the ohia fork just fell and dropped to the ground. Eventually a nest began to form but was found destroyed later in the season. It was extremely cool to witness an ‘Akikiki learning to build a nest and developing skills that it will use to hopefully further the existence of an endangered Hawaiian endemic.

The nesting season in the Alaka’i is beginning to progress quite nicely. Many of our nests are fledging and fledgling ‘Apapane and ‘Anianiau can be heard calling and begging almost anywhere in the forest.The Kaua’i ‘Elepaio fledglings tend to be much quieter and retiring, sitting like small, fluffy, gray statues perched in the trees while their parents constantly feed them. We have had one ‘Akikiki and two ‘Akeke’e nests fledge so far this season and have found fledglings for both species in addition to the nests that we have monitored.