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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Researchers enter Maui forests for bird census

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Wildlife biologists were dropped by helicopter yesterday morning into Maui's remotest forests to take a bird census.

If they're lucky, they might even verify reports of an "extinct" black bird.

The effort will last a week.

Many of the areas to be covered have not been checked for as long as nine years.

Some of the researchers will camp in the rainforest and keep track of each bird they hear or see. Some areas will take four to five days to cover.

The program is a joint effort of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai'i.

The researchers will trek through mountains and gulleys in teams of two.

They expect some of their finds, like the red 'i'iwi, to be fairly common, while many more will be rare.

Biologists believe there are only 500 Maui parrotbills left and know of only three po'ouli individuals.

The po'ouli, a type of honeycreeper apparently already exceedingly rare when the first Europeans arrived, was discovered only in the 1970s.

And there are the mystery birds.

There have been isolated reports over the years of unidentified "black birds" in the Maui forests. One of the best was a 1982 sighting of what may have been a bishop's 'o'o, a species thought to have been extinct.