Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Native Species of the Week: Pueo

Hawaiian Short-eared Owl
Asio flammeus sandwichensis

Pueo, Kanaha Beach, Maui. 
The pueo, or Hawaiian short-eared owl, is an endemic subspecies of the nearly pandemic short-eared owl (Asio flammeus; Family: Strigidae). The species is thought to have colonized the Hawaiian Islands sometime after the arrival of Polynesians. The pueo is State listed as endangered on O‘ahu.

Unlike most owls, pueo are active during the day (i.e., diurnal), and are commonly seen hovering or soaring over open areas. Like short-eared owls in continental environments, those in Hawai‘i primarily consume small mammals. 

Pueo on fence, Waimea, Hawai'i.

Little is known about the breeding biology of pueo, but nests have been found throughout the year. Males perform aerial displays known as a "sky dancing display" to prospective females. Nests are constructed by females and are comprised of simple scrapes in the ground lined with grasses and feather down. Females also perform all incubating and brooding. Males feed females and defend nests. Young may fledge from nest on foot before they are able to fly and depend on their parents for approximately two months.


Found on all the Main Hawaiian Islands from sea level to 2,450 meters (8,000 feet).


Specifics unknown. See comment below for additional information provided by a DOFAW blog reader.


Pueo occupy a variety of habitats, including wet and dry forests, but are most common in open habitats such as grasslands, shrublands, and montane parklands, including urban areas and those actively managed for conservation. Because of a lack of historical population data and the species’ current, broad habitat use, key habitat variables are difficult to determine. Pueo occur in many areas that are managed by the Sate of Hawai‘i or Federal agencies.

Pueo in flight.
Pueo are likely susceptible to the same factors that threaten other native Hawaiian birds, including: loss and degradation of habitat, predation by introduced mammals, and disease. However, their persistence in lowland, non-native and rangeland habitats suggests that they may be less vulnerable to extinction than other native birds, especially because they may be resistant to avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum) and avian pox (Poxvirus avium).

Despite this, for pueo populations, the following are of particular concern:

  • “Sick owl syndrome.” Mortality on Kaua‘i has been attributed to this syndrome, which may be related to pesticide poisoning or food shortages.
  • Predation. Because pueo nest on the ground, their eggs and young are vulnerable to predation by rats (Rattus spp.), cats (Felis silvestris), and the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus).
  • Habitat loss may be particularly important to O‘ahu pueo populations.
  • Contaminants or toxins. Because pueo are top predators, fat-soluble contaminants may accumulate in prey species; may be related to “sick owl syndrome” (see above).
  • Human interaction. Hunting behavior and habitat use predispose pueo to vehicular collisions, which have been documented on Lāna‘i and the island of Hawai‘i.

Pueo, Kahana Beach, Maui


Pueo likely have benefited from management activities designed to conserve other endangered birds. They also may benefit from game bird management; high densities of pueo occur on lands where game birds also are common. In addition to these efforts, future management specific to the pueo may include the following:
  • Determine population trends, especially on islands where “sick owl syndrome” has been documented.
  • Public outreach and education.
  • Continued protection and management of wildlife sanctuaries and refuges.

For more info about the Hawaiian short-eared owl and other native species, visit the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy pueo fact sheet.

Also visit the Hawaii Ecosystems At Risk (HEAR) webpage for more info and photos.

For information about the role of pueo in Hawaiian culture, visit the Kamehameha Schools Distance Learning pueo info page. While you're there, check out the informative Hawaiian Culture Audio PowerPoint Presentations.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hawaiian Bird Conservation Milestone: 12 puaiohi released into Kauai forest

Twelve, small, dark endangered birds were released into the forest of Kaua‘i on October 13th, a milestone in the conservation of native Hawaiian birds. Through collaboration of private and government organizations, the puaiohi, or small Kaua‘i thrush (Myadestes palmeri), has been captive-bred and released annually into the forests of Kaua‘i for the last 10 years. The puaiohi is an elusive bird only found on the island of Kaua‘i, where it makes its home in the high elevation forests of the Alaka‘i Wilderness Preserve. 

Photo credit J. Kuhn/The Peregrine Fund

Prior to release, each puaiohi was banded for identification and fitted with a radio transmitter. The birds will be monitored for 30 days, the lifespan of the batteries in the transmitters, to monitor the birds’ movements and determine their survival rate.  With Tuesday’s release, there have been 188 captive-bred puaiohi released into the wild. 

“The release of captive birds is one strategy to ensure that the puaiohi does not go extinct; however, it cannot be the only strategy," said David Leonard, biologist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife.  “Restoration efforts also need to include long term and landscape scale control of  alien plants and non-native predators,  and we are exploring innovative and cost effective approaches to achieve these. For example, we are determining if puaiohi will use rat-proof structures for nesting.” 

Before the release of these 12 birds, staff worked to reduce the rat population near the release site. Rats are known to kill nesting puaiohi females, chicks and eggs. Other non-native species, including pigs, deer and goats in the reserve impact the birds’ habitat and mosquitoes carry avian malaria and avian pox. 

In 1994, it was estimated that 200 puaiohi survived in the wild. The extremely low numbers of puaiohi prompted a collaboration of researchers and scientists from DLNR's Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Geological Survey Biological Resources Division and the San Diego Zoo

To help the species recover, in 1996 eggs were taken from the Preserve to the San Diego Zoo’s Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, where they could be raised in a protected environment.
“While we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary of rearing and releasing the endangered puaiohi, we know there is still a long way to go before this species can be declared ‘recovered,’” said Alan Lieberman, director of field programs for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. “We are proud of our 17 years of restoring the population of Hawaiian forest birds and are committed to the ongoing stewardship of the puaiohi’s forest habitat.” 

Using state and federal funds, DOFAW established the Kaua‘i Endangered Forest Bird Recovery Project.  This team of biologists collects information on the puaiohi that informs management actions, assists in the release of captive birds, and tracks newly released birds to document their movement and survival. 

Because the puaiohi is federally listed as an endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides financial support and scientific collaboration to the State of Hawaii to support the recovery effort.
“We congratulate our partners for reaching this 10-year milestone in successfully reintroducing endangered puaiohi into the wild,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, field supervisor for the Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.  “Captive propagation is labor-intensive and expensive, but well worth the effort when it contributes toward the recovery of a species.” 

At least 21 species of Hawai‘i’s endemic forest birds have become extinct, another 26 species are facing extinction, and most, including the puaiohi, are dependent on intensive conservation measures. The Zoo’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program (HEBCP) manages the state-of-the-art Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation centers, which work with avian species that are dependent on captive propagation for recovery and survival.
The San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research is dedicated to generating, sharing and applying scientific knowledge vital to the conservation of animals, plants and habitats worldwide.  The work of the Institute includes onsite research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, laboratory work at the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs involving more than 180 researchers working in 35 countries.  

In addition to the Beckman Center, the Institute also operates the Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Botanical Conservation Center, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, which includes a 900-acre native species reserve, and the San Diego Zoo.  The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego. 

To learn more about the puaiohi, visit the Audubon Watchlist - Puaiohi page, the DOFAW Education page, and the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy puaiohi fact sheet

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 24th - International Day of Climate Action

350 - The Most Important Number on the Planet?

"Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. To Learn more about 350, visit"

From the website: "On October 24th, (the International Day of Climate Change) we need you to organize an action in the place where you live, something that will make that most important number visible to everyone. People in more than 1000 communities and 100 nations around the globe have already announced plans— school children planting 350 trees in Bangledesh, scientists hanging banners saying 350 on the statues on Easter Island, 350 scuba divers diving underwater at the Great Barrier Reef...  At each event, people will gather for a big group photo that somehow depicts 350--and upload that photo to the web  As thousands of simultaneous actions take place around the world, we'll link all the pictures together electronically via the web--by the end of the day, we'll have a powerful visual petition linking together the entire planet that we can deliver to the media and world leaders."

Students at Kawainui Marsh in 2008.

Click here to see a map of "350" Actions in Hawaii. Currently there are TWENTY-THREE actions planned in the Hawaiian Islands. Find one near you!

The Kailua 350 event will be one of over 2,000 simultaneous events across the globe - Students are encouraged to meet at Kawainui Marsh on Saturday, where they will form the numbers 350 by standing together in the marsh (knee deep in water) wearing red or pink T-shirts for a photo opportunity. Organizers are looking for as many participants as possible: the more people that stand together, the greater the impact! Wouldn't it be great to have three hundred and fifty people making the numbers 350??

          The site within Kawainui marsh is called Na Pohaku o Hauwahine, and is about a mile in from the Pali/Kapa'a Road intersection. Students are asked to meet there at 9:00am to assemble for the photo shoot at 10:00am. For more about what to wear and what to bring, contact: Contact Chuck "Doc" Burrows ( to register for this important event. Read the press release here.

From the website: "Involve groups that you’re in—everything from your church, mosque or synagogue to your local bicycle group. People want to help, especially if they see the chance for something that might actually matter. This is even more important than changing your lightbulb—this is your chance to help change the way the whole world operates. October 24 comes six weeks before those crucial UN meetings in Copenhagen. It’s a great chance to take a stand—maybe the last great chance, given what the scientists tell us about the momentum of global warming.

Another 350 photo idea.

But it can only happen with the help of a global movement—and it's starting to bubble up everywhere. Farmers in Cameroon, students in China, even World Cup skiers have already helped spread the word about 350. Churches have rung their bells 350 times; Buddhist monks have formed a huge 350 with their bodies against the backdrop of Himalayas. 350 translates across every boundary of language and culture. It's clear and direct, cutting through the static and laying down a firm scientific line.

Kayakers in Portland Oregon.

This is like a final exam for human beings. Can we muster the courage, the commitment, and the creativity to set this earth on a steady course before it's too late? October 24 will be the joyful, powerful day when we prove it's possible." -

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Na Ala Hele Trail and Access System - "Trails To Go On"

Looking for trail information and hiking tips? Check out the Na Ala Hele Trail and Access System website for all the info you'll need to plan an enjoyable and safe hiking experience.

Manoa Falls trail, Oahu

Na Ala Hele provides information about trials and access on all of the major islands, including a basic location map, trail length, difficulty, warnings and trail advisories. Some Na Ala Hele trails even have signs along the way that will tell you about the area or plants nearby.

Interpretive signs have been added to some Na Ala Hele trails.

Want to go on a beginner level adventure on Maui? Try the Keanae Arboretum Walk
How about something a little more difficult on Kauai. Why not check out the Waimea Canyon Trail
Want to find an easy trail where you can see native plants on Big Island? The Puu Huluhulu trail may be the one you're looking for.

When planning your next hiking trip, visit the Na Ala Hele website to find additional info and resources. As always, when you're planning on spending time in unfamiliar places, make sure you are prepared and informed: heed any and all warnings posted on the Na Ala Hele website as well as at the trailhead of your intended hiking location. 

Be smart, do your research, be prepared, and have fun!

Friday, October 9, 2009

4th Annual "Run for the Dry Forest" trail run at Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a

It's back!  Mark your calendars for the 4th Annual "Run for the Dry Forest" trail run at Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a on Saturday, October 24th.  This is a great opportunity to experience the dry forest while  burning some calories on a 5K or 10K trail run. The Run for the Dry Forest supports conservation and preservation of dry forests in Hawai`i. 

Pu`u Wa`awa`a contains some of the few remaining patches of dry forest, and was once the most diverse forest in Hawai`i. Eight endangered birds and at least thirty species of endangered plants are known from Pu`u Wa`awa`a, some of which are found in few or no other locations.

This year’s featured plant is the Lama tree, a member of the Persimmon family. Lama, elama in Hawaiian, have pale green leaves with reddish new growth and edible berries. They were once the dominant tree in the lowlands of the North Kona and South Kohala districts. Today, much Lama have been wiped out by fire and feral and domestic livestock. 

There will be great door prizes, race t-shirts for finishers, hand-made medals, plant giveaways, educational displays and a 1/4 mile Keiki Fun Run. 

Click to see the course map and entry form at PATH (People's Advocacy for Trails Hawaii). You'll find them on the right-hand side of the page. 

 You can also register online at: Contact race director Lyman Perry if you have any questions:  938-7795 or

See you on the trail!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

No Child Left Inside Day - Tuesday October 13th

By now, many educators have heard about the No Child Left Inside Act, but what about No Child Left Inside Day?

Now in it's 2nd year, No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Day was created by the American Geological Institute as part of its annual Earth Science Week. Earth Science week celebrates the geosciences, and NCLI Day was created to promote Earth Science Education.

For ideas about how to celebrate NCLI Day, visit the No Child Left Inside Day webpage. Here you'll find tips for organizing an effective and safe event for your class or for your family. Examples of lessons and activities include: "Look up! Observing Weather," "Be a Paleontologist!" and "Dig into Soil."

For a less structured NCLI day, simply take a walk to your neighborhood park, or spend some time looking closely at a patch of soil. Lay in a field and look at the clouds, or go for a hike. Spend a little bit of extra time enjoying the outdoors, and you never know, you may end up celebrating No Child Left Inside Day everyday!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hawai'i Science Teachers Association Fall Conference

DOFAW outreach staff attended the HaSTA Fall conference on October 3rd, 2009 to share information and resources with teachers.

Science teachers met at Punahou School to network with other educators, explore new classroom ideas, collect resources and participate in workshops. DOFAW provided posters, teacher guides, coloring books, backyard conservation guides, and more. (Click on links for info)

The Hawai'i Science Teachers Association Fall conference featured Tony Wagner, education expert and author of The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach The New Survival Skills Our Children Need--And What We Can Do About It, as the keynote speaker.

After the Science Teacher's conference, OCEANIA Marine Educators Association (which also serves as the HaSTA Marine Science Section) met for their Marine Education Fall Conference

As if the day was not full enough already, many teachers and marine educators headed down to the Educator's Evening from 6:30-9 at the Waikiki Aquarium to learn about the NOAA Ocean Explorers Program, and other marine education resources.

It was a fun and productive day for all who participated. Thanks to all the teachers who stopped by the DOFAW booth to ask questions, stock up on posters and share resource ideas!