The aviculturists at the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program celebrated a “first” on June 3, 2003. The focus of our excitement was something small in size but significant nevertheless. We had propagated the world’s first captive-hatched Hawaii ‘akepa!
The Hawaii ‘akepa Loxops coccineus is a small forest bird found only on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is very small, only 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 centimeters) long and 0.35 to 0.42 ounces (10 to 12 grams). Adult females are olive green and adult males are bright orange.
After several years without success, one of our four pairs started feeding each other: love was in the air! The male displayed to the female with songs and looping flights, and the female began to carry nesting material into one of the artificial nests that was provided. One day, she didn’t come out of the nest and we guessed she had an egg. We watched her very closely for the two-week incubation period that it would take for the egg to hatch. The day after we believe the chick hatched, the female left the nest and never returned, a sure sign that something was wrong. We decided to take a closer look and climbed up to peer into the nest’s entrance hole.
The female had constructed a poor nest and the interior was quite cold. On the bottom of the nest was a tiny chick. The chick was not moving and we feared it had died from hypothermia. However, once in a warm human hand it kicked a tiny leg; it was just barely alive! We put the hatchling in a heated brooder-box, and the chick recovered remarkably well. It is now a part of our propagation and release efforts for endangered Hawaiian birds.
Alan Lieberman is the program director for the San Diego Zoo’s Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Comments are currently closed. Pinging is not allowed.