First Breeding Season of Endangered Bird at Maui Bird Conservation Center Produces Six Chicks

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Palila-on-MamaneA small songbird of the Hawaiian forest, the critically endangered palila has received a significant boost to its captive breeding population due to a successful breeding season at San Diego Zoo Global’s Maui Bird Conservation Center. With the support and care from conservationists at the Maui Bird Conservation Center, a pair of palila has produced a total of six healthy nestlings in 2014 thus far.

“This is the first full breeding season we have had for this species at the Maui Bird Conservation Center and we are delighted with the success,” said Josh Kramer, research coordinator for San Diego Zoo Global. “These birds are very charismatic and it is very easy to fall in love with them.”

In the wild, palila are only found on the island of Hawaii, in subalpine woodlands of Mauna Kea. At the Maui Bird Conservation Center, animal care staff artificially incubated eggs laid by the pair and hand-reared the offspring to encourage multiple clutches from the breeding adults. Palila are highly dependent on the mamane Sophora chrysophylla tree, from which they consume unripe seeds. Mamane seeds contain high amounts of toxic alkaloids and palila have evolved tolerance to this toxin. Today, palila are found in less than 5% of their historic range, primarily due to the loss of native dryland forest habitat.

The Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program is a field program of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, in partnership with the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.