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Laysan Duck success continues

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From the June 2015 Birding Community E-bulletin:


Laysan Ducks once lived on the main Hawaiian Islands, but disappeared about 800 years ago with the arrival of invasive rats. The ducks became restricted to Laysan Island, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, starting about 150 years ago. In fact, by 1911, the Laysan Duck population was estimated at fewer than 20 birds. But in 2004, the island ducks were successfully reintroduced to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

Following rabbit and rat eradication, habitat restoration, and translocation efforts, the population approached 1,000 birds by 2010 on both Laysan and Midway. Unfortunately, the Japanese tsunami in 2011 caused a 40 percent decrease in the population. Today, the ducks continue to be threatened by avian disease, severe storms, and sea level rise. 

Last September, 28 young wild Laysan Ducks were brought from Midway to the remote Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. They were brought by ship, and then were released. 

"Laysan ducks do not fly between Atolls, so each additional island reintroduction helps to restore its distribution and the biodiversity of Hawaii," explained Dr. Michelle Reynolds of the US Geological Survey.

To prepare Kure Atoll for the ducks, the State of Hawaii, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) had replaced alien weeds with planted native plants and removed invasive species such as predatory rats and ants. The agency also created wetlands, and helped to otherwise restore native habitat.

The DLNR reported that 19 new downy Laysan ducklings were observed last month. Broods can range in size from 2-10 ducklings. 

Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary Manager Cynthia Vanderlip said, "Everyone working on this project to help save an endangered species is thrilled that this reintroduction may reduce extinction risk of this rare Hawaiian endemic duck. We all feel like proud parents." 


For a video clip of Laysan ducks at Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, see here: 


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