The afternoon for our Laysan albatross nestling started with a quick feed from the male parent Kaluakane. What happened afterwards was a surprise; two banded non-breeding albatross (K405 and K256) were caught on the cam practicing courtship in front of our nestling. An un-banded non-breeder also joins in the dance. This clip shows highlights from the courtship, the entire event continued for almost 30 minutes.
Tahiti Monarch conservation wins first BirdLife People’s Choice Award as new threats emerge
by Nick Askew
Results revealed today show that Manu (Société d’Ornithologie de Polynésie: BirdLife in French Polynesia) has won a public vote to become the first BirdLife People’s Choice Award. However, celebrations were short-lived as new threats from invasive species and heavy rain threaten the last 10 breeding pairs in the world.
“Looking back at 2013, there are so many achievements to highlight from within the BirdLife Partnership”, said Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson - Interim Chief Executive of BirdLife International. “Congratulations to Manu for their work controlling invasive species in the Tahiti Monarch’s home range which enabled last year to be the best breeding season since they started their work sixteen years ago!”
Manu have been monitoring monarchs, controlling introduced predators such as rats and improving habitat for the Critically Endangered species since 1998. Manu’s award-winning work marries conservation education with cutting-edge science. Children raise native trees in their school’s tree nursery, volunteers plant the trees, and ecologists worked with volunteers to combats introduced species…
On edge of extinction, could drones and technology save the Little Dodo?
by Jeremy Hance
Almost nothing is known about the Manumea aka little dodo, a large, archaic, pigeon-like bird found only on the islands of Samoa. Worse still, this truly bizarre bird is on the verge of extinction, following the fate of its much more famous relative, the dodo bird. Recently, conservationists estimated that fewer than 200 survived on the island and maybe far fewer; frustratingly, sightings of the bird have been almost non-existent in recent years.
But conservation efforts were buoyed this December when researchers stumbled on a juvenile little dodo hanging out in a tree. Not only was this an important sighting of a nearly-extinct species, but even more so it proved the species is still successfully breeding. In other words: there is still time to save the species from extinction so long as conservationists are able to raise the funds needed…
Anas laysanensis lives only on the Hawaiian island of Laysan, although it was once widespread across the archipelago. It feeds mainly at night on aquatic invertebrates, seeds, and algae. They also run through swarms of brine flies with an open bill to catch them. Breeding usually occurs between April and June, and the female lays four eggs per clutch.
As the population of A. laysanensis is very small, it is under threat from disease and severe weather conditions. An invasive weed species has reduced the availability of breeding habitat, and invasive invertebrates compete with the ducks’ food sources. A parasitic nematode worm (Echinuria uncinata) is also having a negative impact on the population.
Laysan Island is protected as a National Wildlife Refuge, and A. laysanensis is listed under Appendix I of CITES. Invasive weeds are under control, and a successful translocation of some ducks saw a new insurance population set up on Midway Atoll. Another reintroduction to the island of Kahoolawe has also been proposed.
You have to see this super-cute, short video recently taken by the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service of a newly-hatched Short-tailed Albatross chick getting to know his dad and learning to feed for the first time at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.
Encouragingly, this single pair of endangered Short-tailed Albatross has had a handful of successful nests at Midway. Once the most abundant North Pacific albatross species, the Short-tailed Albatross was decimated by feather hunting at the turn of the 20th century, and by the late 1940s was thought to be extinct. In the early 1950s, 10 pairs were discovered breeding on the volcanic island of Torishima, Japan and because of protection and reintroduction efforts, the population has now reached 3,000 individuals.
Brachylophus vitiensis lives on the northwest islands of Fiji, in beach forests on mostly uninhabited islands. It is closely related to the more common banded iguana (Brachylophus fasciatus). It eats leaves and flowers, and its primary food source is the hibiscus flower. Mating occurs in January, and eggs are laid in March and April. The female lays four eggs in a burrow and guards them. This iguana has one of the longest incubation periods on any reptile, at over eight months.
Habitat destruction by feral goats is the main threat to B. vitiensis, as they feed on many native trees and shrubs.
Yaduataba Island has been free of goats since 1981, and is now a national sanctuary and home to thousands of B. vitiensis. A captive breeding programme is also under way, and is supported by Taronga Zoo, the Fijian National Trust, and several other organisations.
GOOD NEWS: Tooth-billed pigeon sighted for first time in 10 years
Was thought by some to be extinct…
One of the world’s least-known and rarest birds, the Tooth-billed Pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris) has been sighted on the Samoan island of Savai’i by researchers.The young Tooth-billed Pigeon, was photographed by a team from the Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), and is the first confirmed sighting in almost a decade.
The odd-looking tooth-billed pigeon or manumea, as it is locally known, is endemic to Samoa and is the country’s national bird. BirdLife lists it as Endangered due to its small, fragmented range and population. It has declined rapidly over the last 20 years as a result of hunting and habitat loss…
The moorish idol is a species of marine fish that has a wide distribution in tropical Indo-Pacific waters. They can be found at depths from 3 to 180 m (10 - 590 ft) and prefer flat reefs.
Moorish idols are often seen alone, although they do form pairs and mate for life. Occasionally, juveniles can be seen in small schools. Their natural diet consists of sponges, tunicates, coral polyps and other benthic invertebrates.
MIDWAY, a Message from the Gyre is a short film. It is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch.
Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.
Our feature film MIDWAY is currently in post-production and expected to premiere in early 2014.
The first video of a brand new rare and endangered short-tailed albatross chick from Midway Atoll NWR.
A short-tailed albatross chick hatched at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge on Eastern Island within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument on January 9, 2014. The short-tailed albatross is one of the most endangered seabird species in the world, has a stunning golden head and an impressive regal stature much larger than its cousin, the Laysan albatross which nests on Midway by the hundreds of thousands.
This male and female pair of short-tailed albatross are reunited at Midway Atoll NWR. Photo credit: Dale Chorman/SeeMore Wildlife Systems
Both parents took their brooding duties seriously this year as they have in the past, exchanging places approximately every 2 weeks. While away from the nest, the parent will use its impressive 8.5 foot wing span to cover thousands of miles, soaring between Midway Atoll Refuge and the nutrient-rich ocean waters some 1,000 miles to the North in an intense effort to gather food to feed its chick and acquire enough squid and flying fish eggs to sustain itself…
This swimming elasipod sea cucumber (Paleopatides sp.) was photographed off the northern shore of Ta’u Island during the exploration of Vailulu’u, an underwater volcano that lies approximately 20 miles east of Ta’u Island in American Samoa. The volcano and its hydrothermal vents offered an exciting opportunity for scientists to explore the complex interface between the lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge gave to us - two short-tailed albatross! In 2013, a pair of the extremely rare and endangered short-tailed albatross laid their third egg since 2011 at the refuge. This pair is the first to successfully raise a chick outside of Japan.
The albatross Wisdom, at almost 63 the world’s oldest, banded wild bird, laid another egg in late November, a year and a day after her last one. She’s at Midway Atoll Refuge, nesting site for 71 percent of the world’s population of Laysan albatross.