Millerbird program on Laysan Island showing success

Test project helps endangered birds

 UPDATED 6:11 AM HST Sep 05, 2012
HONOLULU -

It began nearly a year ago.

A team of researchers started trekking up the rocky cliffs of Nihoa Island - the tallest in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands - 155 nautical miles from Kauai.

Their focus was the tiny gray-brown Millerbird.

Rats, rabbits and other invasive species are threatening to end the endangered species.

Last year teams caught two dozen of the birds. This year they caught 26.

The Millerbirds are tagged, boxed, and then taken on a three day, 600 mile voyage to Laysan Island.

"Last year the crew translocated 24 birds and within weeks the birds were setting up territories and pairing up and starting to show some aggression to the native Laysan Finch that are there," said Sheldon Plentovich. She is part of U.S. Fish & Wildlife service on the island along with the American Bird Conservancy.

They're creating a new population on Laysan to keep the birds from being wiped out and their work is proving to be a huge success.

"It was really amazing and surprising and this time they have only been on the island for about two weeks and we're already seeing some paired and set up that are newly translocated birds," she said.

Millerbirds once called Laysan home too, but in the early 20th century, traders killed hundreds of thousands of birds and introduced invasive species.

Scientists have spent decades reversing the damage.

Today, the picturesque ecosystem is frequented by sea turtles and napping monk seals.

It's also home to millions of nesting seabirds, and becoming another chance for them and the Millerbirds.

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