island conservation hawaiian crows

To be Free, Hawaiian Crows Must Learn to Survive in the Wild

Researchers are working to teach captive-bred Hawaiian Crows predator avoidance skills to prepare them for return to the wild.

Last December, five male Hawaiian Crows (Corvus hawaiiensis), also known as Alalā, were released into the wild at Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve in Hawaii. This release marked the first time individuals had been in the wild since 2002, when a captive breeding program was initiated to protect the crows from invasive species such as rats and mongoose.

island conservation alala in the wild

Two of the five male Alalā released into Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve. Credit: West Hawaii Today

Following the release, the five birds were initially thriving in the wild. Not much later, however, two individuals were found dead. This discovery triggered conservationists to recapture and return the remainint individuals to captivity. Results from the necropsies of the birds showed that they died due to predation from the Hawaiian Hawk (Buteo solitarius) also known as ‘io, a natural predator that is also endangered. Another individual was found to have died due to natural circumstances.

Although the return to captivity was a setback for the program, conservationists are still working hard to implement a second release of twelve individuals. Researchers are working with the captive animals to teach them predator avoidance tactics in order to minimize the impact of natural predation. The statement released by Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources explained:

Biologists around the world say releases like this are usually marked with fits and starts, and that reintroduction success is not usually seen before multiple releases.

The Extinct-in-the-wild Hawaiian Crows have a long road to recovery, but due to the efforts of dedicated researchers, there is hope that one day they will thrive in their native, wild habitat.

Featured photo: Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Melissa McMasters
Source: Hawaii Tribune

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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