HONOLULU, Sept. 18 (UPI) — A species of bird introduced to Hawaii in the late 1920s as pest control is threatening the state’s native and endangered birds, researchers said.
“Native Hawaiian songbirds cannot rear normal-size offspring in the presence of large numbers of introduced Japanese white-eyes. Their growth is stunted,” researcher Leonard Freed, of the University of Hawaii, said.
White-eyes, which thrive in old growth forests, leave native birds too little food for growth, survival and breeding, the university said in a release Friday.
The stunted native birds have shorter bills, which prove awkward in feeding themselves and their chicks. Malnourished birds also are susceptible to infectious diseases, including malaria, Freed said.
Wherever white-eyes flourish in Hawaii, native birds populations suffer declines, Freed said.
The white-eyes seemed to co-exist with native species until about 2000, when researchers noticed a drop in the endangered native akepa population, with fledglings clearly underweight. An estimated two-thirds of Hawaii’s akepa population disappeared by 2006.
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