Hawaiian Crow – Corvus Hawaiiensis


Extinct in the wild.

Where did it live?

Hawaiian Crow used to inhabit Hawaii. The last wild birds were confined to higher-elevation forest around Kona.

How many are left?

Following an unsuccessful reintroduction during the 1990s, the last two truly wild individuals of this species disappeared in 2002. The captive population has grown from 24 birds in 1999 to around 114 (including 20 breeding pairs) today. Following a second reintroduction that started in 2016, 28 captive-bred birds now live wild.

Why did it disappear?

The crow’s forest habitat was extensively degraded by logging and agriculture, with understorey food plants being browsed by cattle, sheep and goats. Forest fragmentation made it harder for birds to exploit patchy food resources. The crow’s confiding nature rendered it susceptible to human persecution, predation by the native Hawaiian Hawk Buteo solitarius (Near Threatened) and non-native mammals, and infection by other invasive alien species such as mosquitoes.

What reintroduction plans are in place?

The latest reintroduction initiative, a partnership between San Diego Zoo and Hawaiian/US government bodies, started in 2016. Birds have been gradually let free into Pu’u Maka’ala Natural Area Reserve on Mauna Loa. By spring 2019, three pairs had shown breeding behaviors, including nest-building: “A huge step forward for their recovery as a species,” says the zoo’s Alison Greggor.

What challenges lie ahead?

Predation remains an issue, and a community outreach program is seeking to reduce human persecution (which is partly why the first reintroduction failed). To prevent habitat degradation at the reintroduction site, predatory animials have been removed, the forest fenced and native vegetation restored. The same is needed at a second intended site. Finally, genetic in-breeding in the captive population may be an issue.