Puaiohi: 300th Chick

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On Tuesday, May 26, 2009, the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program reached a new landmark in its species recovery program for the puaiohi Myadestes palmeri: this fluffy-downed chick (pictured) represents the 300th chick to hatch since managed-care propagation efforts began in 1996.

The puaiohi is one of the four target passerine (perching birds) species for our program’s bird breeding activities. In fact, the puaiohi is undoubtedly our most productive species; it was only April 2006 that marked the hatching of the 200th chick (see post, The 200th Puaiohi).

Even more crucially, the puaiohi is the subject of an ongoing release effort in its last stronghold, the Alakai Swamp, a wet upland plateau on the island of Kauai. Working with our partners, the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project, we have released 176 puaiohi since 1998 (see post, Spreading the Puaiohi across the Alakai).

So far, chick #300 is growing rapidly and developing well, fueled by its diet of bee larvae, papaya, scrambled egg, cricket, and mealworm guts. Initially, hand-rearing feeds are painstakingly provided on the hour, 15 times per day; the frequency is reduced as the chick grows and becomes more robust. We hope this youngster will continue to make good progress and will either be retained in the breeding program at the Maui and Keauhou Bird Conservation Centers or will be released to boost the critically endangered population in the wild.

Richard Switzer is the conservation program manager for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program.

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