Update: Hawaiian Crows Released in 2017 are Holding Strong

By Marc Devokaitis
December 17, 2018
Alala (Hawaiian Crow) Courtesy San Diego Zoo Global An Alala or Hawaiian Crow. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Global.

From the Winter 2019 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

The 11 Alala (Hawaiian Crow) released in late 2017 into a nature reserve on Hawaii’s Big Island had a challenging year.

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In 2018, multiple volcanic eruptions poured ash into the air. Then Hurricane Lane brought three to four feet of water to most of the island over five days in August. But despite the fire and water, all 11 Alala are still alive and thriving.

Alison Greggor, a San Diego Zoo scientist who works on the reintroduction team for the once-extirpated Alala, says the captive-reared crows have developed good survival skills.

“The birds have gotten much better at seeking shelter in the forest,” she said. “They survive very well in wet conditions and they’re able to fend for themselves.”

Greggor and the team also gave the Alala predator-avoidance training before releasing them into the wild, and it seems to be paying off. The Alala have been seen banding together to chase away an Io (Hawaiian Hawk).

Alala were once common on Hawaii, but by 2002 the population had dwindled to the point where the San Diego Zoo brought the last Alala into captivity to rescue the species. The Alala Project—a partnership of the zoo, Hawaii’s state wildlife agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—has bred a captive population of Alala for reintroduction back into the wild at select release sites.

In September and October of 2018, 10 more Alala were released on Hawaii, bringing to 21 the total number of wild individuals in the world today.