Hawaii Wildlife Ecology Lab

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    First observations of Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) eggs and other breeding observations on the island of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i
    (AllenPress, 2021-08-04) Harmon, Kristen ; Phipps, Clarine ; VanderWerf, Eric ; Chagnon, Bethany ; Price, Melissa
    The Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) commonly breeds along coastal beaches and major interior rivers of North America and the Caribbean. Least Terns have been observed in Hawai‘i since the 1970s; however, few breeding attempts have been documented. Nests have been discovered on the northwestern Hawaiian island of Midway Atoll and the southeastern Hawaiian island of Hawai‘i. While nesting is thought to also occur on the islands of O‘ahu and French Frigate Shoals based on observations of juvenile Least Terns, no observations of nests had been recorded for these islands prior to this study. In this paper we describe 2 accounts of discovering Least Tern eggs in the Ki‘i Unit of the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on O‘ahu, as well as several observations of breeding behavior in wetlands within the Pearl Harbor region of O‘ahu.
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    The role of Indigenous practices in expanding waterbird habitat in the face of rising seas
    (Elsevier, 2021-04-01) Harmon, Kristen ; Winter, Kawika ; Kurashima, Natalie ; Fletcher, Charles ; Kane, Haunani ; Price, Melissa
    In Hawai‘i, as is the case globally, sea level rise threatens the availability of suitable habitat for waterbirds and other coastal species. This study examines Hawaiian wetland agro-ecosystems (loʻi) as social-ecological systems that may meet human needs while expanding nesting habitat of endangered waterbirds, if restored under an Indigenous Resource Management paradigm. We applied spatial analysis to project: (1) the area of existing waterbird habitat likely lost to sea level rise by the end of the century (2100); and (2) the area of waterbird habitat potentially gained through restoration of lo‘i systems. Results show that, if loʻi offer similar or equivalent habitat value to Hawaiian waterbirds as conventionally managed wetlands, the restoration of loʻi would not only compensate for projected losses of wetland habitat due to sea level rise, but substantially contribute toward the recovery of endangered waterbirds that are currently habitat-limited. This study demonstrates capacity for contemporary Indigenous land management to address conservation and food-security needs in the Hawaiian Islands, as well as challenges of multi-objective land use and habitat restoration for endangered wetland-dependent fauna. This research further contributes toward a growing number of studies suggesting that Indigenous practices based on social-ecological frameworks offer potential to achieve sustainability and biodiversity goals simultaneously.
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    Cooperative breeding behaviors in the Hawaiian Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni)
    (Wiley, 2021-03-10) Dibben-Young, Arleone ; Harmon, Kristen ; Lunow-Luke, Arianna ; Idle, Jessica ; Christensen, Dain ; Price, Melissa
    Cooperative breeding, which is commonly characterized by nonbreeding individuals that assist others with reproduction, is common in avian species. However, few accounts have been reported in Charadriiformes, particularly island-nesting species. We present incidental observations of cooperative breeding behaviors in the Hawaiian Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), an endangered subspecies of the Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), during the 2012–2020 nesting seasons on the Hawaiian islands of O‘ahu and Moloka‘i. We describe two different behaviors that are indicative of cooperative breeding: (a) egg incubation by multiple adults; (b) helpers-at-the-nest, whereby juveniles delay dispersal and reproduction to assist parents and siblings with reproduction. These observations are the first published accounts of cooperative breeding in this subspecies and merit further investigation, as cooperative breeding may improve population viability of the endangered, endemic Hawaiian Stilt.
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    Seasonal patterns in nest survival of a subtropical wading bird, the Hawaiian Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni)
    (PeerJ, 2021-02-01) Harmon, Kristen ; Wehr, Nathaniel ; Price, Melissa
    Nest survival is influenced by where and when birds decide to breed. For ground-nesting species, nest-site characteristics, such as vegetation height and proximity to water, may impact the likelihood of nest flooding or depredation. Further, habitat characteristics, and thus nest survival, may fluctuate across the breeding season. The Hawaiian Stilt (‘Ae‘o; Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) is an endangered Hawaiian waterbird that nests in wetlands across the Hawaiian Islands. In this study, we used observational surveys and nest cameras to examine the impact of nest-site characteristics and day of nesting season on nest survival of the Hawaiian Stilt. Early nests had a higher chance of survival than late nests. For most of the nesting season, taller vegetation was correlated with increased nest survival, while shorter vegetation was correlated with increased nest survival late in the nesting season. Seasonal patterns in nest survival may be due to changes in parental behavior or predator activity. Nest depredation was responsible for 55% of confirmed nest failures and introduced mammals were the primary nest predators. Our study is the first to examine seasonality in nest survival of Hawaiian Stilts and suggests that, despite longer nesting seasons and year-round occupation of wetlands, late nesters in subtropical regions may have lower nest survival than early nesters, similar to trends observed in temperate regions.
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    Cooperative Breeding Behaviors in the Hawaiian Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni)
    ( 2021-03-17) Dibben-Young, Arleone ; Harmon, Kristen ; Lunow-Luke, Arianna ; Idle, Jessica ; Christensen, Dain ; Price, Melissa
    Cooperative breeding, which is commonly characterized by non-breeding individuals that assist others with reproduction, is common in avian species. However, few accounts have been reported in Charadriiformes, particularly island-nesting species. We present incidental observations of cooperative breeding behaviors in the Hawaiian Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), an endangered subspecies of the Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), during the 20122020 nesting seasons on the Hawaiian islands of O‘ahu and Moloka‘i. We describe two different behaviors that are indicative of cooperative breeding: (1) egg incubation by multiple adults; (2) helpers-at-the-nest, whereby juveniles delay dispersal and reproduction to assist parents and siblings with reproduction. These observations are the first published accounts of cooperative breeding in this subspecies and merit further investigation, as cooperative breeding may improve population viability of the endangered, endemic Hawaiian Stilt.