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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 15, 2010

OHA grant is to protect forest and endangered birds

Advertiser Staff

A nearly $90,000 grant from the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs will support efforts by a group working to protect a Läna'i forest and watershed and its native plants and animals — including a colony of endangered 'ua'u, or petrel seabirds, discovered in 2006, the Maui News reported.

Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development, which is a nonprofit as well as a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, received the $89,770 from OHA to put toward its Läna'i Native Species Recovery Program.

The money will be used to protect the Lanai watershed and the 'ua'u and to support public outreach and education about the 'ua'u and the watershed habitat the bird relies on for nesting, according to a news release about the grant.

Läna'ihale forest, which ranges in elevation from 2,100 feet to 3,370 feet, is home to the second-largest flock of 'ua'u in Hawai'i, said Jay F. Penniman, research specialist with the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project.

The largest known group of 'ua'u has been found on Haleakalä with 1,200 nesting burrows recorded, he said in an article for the Maui Invasive Species Committee newsletter last summer. Though research on the Läna'i colony remains in the early stages, biologists estimate several thousand of the birds use the site for breeding.

At one time, the 'ua'u were Hawai'i's largest known bird species and were said to have darkened the skies when flocks took flight, Penniman wrote in the article. Historically, 'ua'u have been known to breed on Läna'i, and in the 1950s, Läna'i ranch manager and naturalist George Munro was concerned that the birds would become extinct.

In 2006, Fern Duvall, a state wildlife biologist, began a research effort to see if the rumors about the presence of 'ua'u on Läna'i were true.

Since then, work has begun to save the habitat and the watershed. Feral cats and the nonindigenous barn owl are two major predators that feed on the 'ua'u, their chicks and their eggs.