The ‘Alalā is a crow species that only lives on Hawai’i. In the 1990s, the species was on the verge of extinction. So biologists decided to raise ‘Alalā in captivity, aiming to release them once the captive population was big enough. But these intelligent birds have to learn many skills to survive in the wild, such as communication skills and avoiding predators. Several ‘Alalā were released and seemed to get the hang of avoiding hawks. These experienced birds returned to captivity and could help pass on their knowledge to the next generation.
Raising the Clever ‘Alalā
Adapted from the Threatened podcast
This is BirdNote.
[‘Alalā (Hawaiian Crow) calls, ML 218670]
The ‘Alalā is a crow species that only lives on Hawai’i. In the 1990s, the species was on the verge of extinction. So biologists decided to raise ‘Alalā in captivity, aiming to release them once the captive population was big enough. The tricky thing, says Sarah Malick Wahls, is teaching an ‘Alalā how to be an ‘Alalā.
Sarah Malick-Wahls: So birds that have been raised in captivity are not exposed to the same stimuli as they are in the wild.
Sarah is the Research and Recovery Coordinator with the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. She and her team devised ways for captive ‘Alalā to gain skills to survive in the wild:
Sarah Malick-Wahls: There's a socialization process that we're using at the breeding centers, where birds are put into juvenile flocks to try to develop proper communication skills and, and other things that you would get that are kind of intangible from interacting with a cohort of your peers.
The project released about 30 of the crows in the wild a few years ago. Unfortunately, many were lost to predation from hawks. But a few seemed to get the hang of evading predators.
Sarah Malick-Wahls: So, the decision was to bring those five that still had some of that wild bird knowledge back into the breeding flock to be able to preserve that knowledge.
Hear more about ‘Alalā recovery project on the Threatened podcast. Listen in your podcast app or at BirdNote.org. I’m Ari Daniel.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. ‘Alalā (Hawaiian Crow) ML 218670 recorded by T. Burr.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote August 2022
Narrator: Ari Daniel
ID# HCRO-01-2022-08-18 HCRO-01