Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project Advances with Parrotbill Research

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The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project is wrapping up their second year of intensive Maui Parrotbill research in Hanawi Natural Area Reserve on the northeastern slope of Maui. Focusing on reproductive success and survival, the MFBRP team occupied two field camps (Frisbee Meadows and HR3) in Hanawi where nine researchers searched for birds and nests between January and May.

This year we located and monitored eight nests at different stages throughout the season, more than tripling the number of nests that we monitored last season. As we are collecting more data on nests, and getting better at finding them, we are improving our knowledge of the reproductive status of the Maui Parrotbill population. With each season, we are able to delineate more Parrotbill territories and follow family groups through multiple seasons and nesting attempts. To aid in this we are target mist-netting and color-banding Parrotbill; this year we captured 13 individuals including two males that were transported out of Hanawi to the Maui Bird Conservation Center to advance the captive-breeding program. The 11 other birds, consisting of males, females and second year birds, were banded and released.


Obtaining estimates of endangered species population numbers in the wild is challenging due to the low densities and poor detection rates. Nest monitoring and the addition of more banded birds is allowing us to generate better estimates of the Parrotbill population in these areas and will ideally allow us to detect sudden population declines. Considering the scarcity of the Parrotbill, every re-sight of an individual provides a wealth of information for us. Early in the season, the detection of a bird banded in 1994 by the USGS-BRD team was extremely exciting. Despite the predation and habitat degradation pressures that this area has suffered, this Parrotbill has survived for at least 14 years – possibly breeding and continuing his species through most of that time. This sighting has established the known longevity record for Parrotbill and suggests that the species can be long lived, even with the many threats facing the vulnerable Parrotbill population left on Maui.

Although the nesting season has now ended, our team will continue to monitor the survival of four Parrotbill fledglings. Out of the five nests that we observed in HR3 with eggs only one fledged a chick, which suggests low nest success. However, we also found three additional fledglings whose nests we were not able to locate but whose survival we will monitor. Additionally, we plan to return to both field sites in the fall to target-net and band further birds at higher elevations where we have few color-banded individuals and prepare for the next breeding season.

”’Hanna Mounce is with the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. For more information about the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project email: or phone: 808-573-0280. Website can be found at his article was published in the most recent edition of Na Leo O Ka Aina, bi-annual newsletter of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife. See more at””