A pair of endangered Hawaiian crows have been appear to have laid the first ‘Alala eggs in the wild for first time in nearly 20 years.Two Hawaiian crows, or ‘Alala, named Mana‘olana and Manaiakalani, were seen beginning to build a nest platform in April in the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve near the site where they were first released into the wild in 2017. More recently, Manaiakalani, the female of the pair, has been sitting on top of the next in an apparent attempt to incubate a clutch of eggs.
This is the first time an ‘Alala pair has been seen performing nesting behavior since the species went extinct in the wild in the early 2000s. Since 2017, 21 of the birds have been released into protected forest areas on the Big Island by The ‘Alala Project, a partnership between the State Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forest and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and San Diego Zoo Global.
Rachel Kingsley, education and outreach associate for The ‘Alala Project, said researchers cannot confirm the presence of eggs within the nest, as the nest is 40 feet up a tree and currently has an extremely endangered bird perched upon it at all times. However, the pair’s behavior is strongly indicative of incubation.Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the eggs will be successful.
First broods for ‘Alala pairs are not often successful, Kingsley said, and the pair may require several attempts before chicks successfully hatch.Even further, the pair had no adult ‘Alala to learn from, so their breeding behavior is entirely guided by instinct, Kingsley said.A second pair, Kia‘ikiumokuhali‘i and Ola, have also been seen beginning to build a nest platform, although their nest is far from complete.
Of the original 11 ‘Alala released into the wild in 2017, one died in December to an apparent predator and three have formed pairs, including the two nest-building couples. The remaining four have not paired off yet, and because they are not an even sex distribution, they will have to wait for the five released in 2018 to mature in order to do so, because ‘Alala are monogamous and mate for life, Kingsley said.
The ‘Alala Project has plans to release between 4 and 6 more crows into the wild this year.