Hawaiian Crow Flies Free At Last

After 14 years of conservation, five Hawaiian Crow males are released back into the wild.

The Hawaiian Crow, or Alalā, has been Extinct-in-the-wild since 2002, but after years of conservation and captive breeding, five male crows have been released in the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve on the Big Island last Wednesday.

island conservation Alala

Two Alalā explore their new habitat. Credit: West Hawaii Today

These five birds have been housed in a temporary aviary within the reserve while researchers prepared for the release; this allowed them to acclimate to the habitat to which they were once native. Bryce Masuda, conservation program manager of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program commented:

After being released, the ‘Alalā quickly adjusted to their new home, and began to search for and find food items in the forest…Although the birds have now been released, we will continue to monitor them and provide appropriate supplemental food, to ensure they are supported as they encounter challenges.

The Alalā were released into the Natural Reserve which has been protected as a remaining parcel of the Hawaiian forest with native plants and species that were present when Hawaiian Crow populations began to decline. Jackie Gaudioso-Levita, project coordinator of the ‘Alalā Project explained:

Decades of intensive management by the Three Mountain Alliance watershed partnership have led to the preservation of some of the most intact native-dominated wet and mesic forest on windward Hawaii Island, known as Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve.

Releasing the Alalā back to their native habitat is expected to have a dramatic impact on the Hawaiian forest and aid in the recovery of this ecosystem. The birds play a crucial role in the forest as they eat and disperse seeds of native vegetation.

island conservation Alala released

Hawaiian Crow males released into Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve. Credit: West Hawaii Today 

The release of these five birds is just one step towards a larger reintroduction. There are over 100 Alalā in the captive breeding program that will eventually have their day in the Hawaiian forests.

Check out amazing footage below of the birds exploring the wild!

Featured photo: Hawaiian Crows feed on Pittosporum glabrum, commonly called Hōʻawa or Koʻolau Range Cheesewood. Credit: David Eickhoff
Video: Big Island Video News

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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