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Native forest birds in unprecedented trouble, according to University of Hawaii at Manoa researchers
Date:1/19/2012

had asymmetric molt of these feathers. This is the first time asymmetric molt has been documented throughout a community of birds. This molt was experimentally seen previously in food-limited birds. In laboratory situations, starvation of birds to 60% of normal diet leads to the changes in molt that Freed and Cann observed in nature. Native birds died at a greater rate during the months of extended molt during 2000-2004, and survival worsened each year. A control set of years in the 1990's, with fewer white-eyes, showed no trend in survival.

The authors reported that the changes in molt were associated in every detail with the increase in Japanese white-eye birds, a bird intentionally introduced to Hawai'i in 1929 to control insects. According to Freed and Cann, the molt study complements a previous 2009 Current Biology paper by the authors showing that all species of native birds have stunted growth and lower survival. The authors suggest that no section of the refuge is safe from the competitive effects of this introduced bird, especially the lower closed forest section of the refuge which had the greatest non-normal molt in 2006.


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Contact: Leonard Freed
lfreed@hawaii.edu
808-956-8655
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Source:Eurekalert

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