Nowhere to go? Ensuring the survival of endemic songbirds in Papahānaumokuākea

September 16, 2021

Sheldon Plentovich, Ph. D., USFWS Pacific Islands Coastal Program Coordinator

Prior to the early 1900s, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was home to five species of songbirds that were found nowhere else in the word. After decades of natural resource exploitation on Laysan, two species, the Laysan Millerbird and the Laysan Apapane were lost to extinction. The three remaining species, Ulūlu (Nihoa Millerbird), Palihoa (Nihoa Finch) and ‘Ekupu‘u (Laysan Finch) are each endemic to their namesake island, and each at high risk of extinction due to their limited ranges. Successful translocations of Nihoa Millerbird and Laysan Finch have reduced their extinction risk in the short term until low-lying atolls and islands succumb to sea-level rise. Nihoa Finches still only persist on a single island and translocation of this species is a conservation priority that is supported by USFWS and the Monument. There is fossil evidence that all three species once lived in the main Hawaiian Islands and translocations back to some of these locales is needed to ensure long-term survival. Join us as Dr. Plentovich shares her experience and hope for the future of these amazing birds.

This presentation is part of the Third Thursday By the Bay Presentation Series at Mokupāpapa Discovery Center that is the visitor center for Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. This State of the Monument lecture series is also supported by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.