Attempt to breed Hawaiian crows at nature reserve fails

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The first breeding attempt by a pair of Hawaiian crows in the wild in nearly 20 years appears to have failed, officials said.

Officials at the Puu Makaala Natural Area Reserve did not find offspring at a nest the birds built, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday.

Researchers at the state park on the Big Island saw the crows, Manaolana and Manaiakalani, display behavior associated with egg incubation earlier this month, but then found no sign of chicks in the nest beyond the point when eggs would be expected to hatch.

The birds are members of an 11-crow cohort released into the wild in 2017 by The Alala Project, a joint effort between the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and San Diego Zoo Global to revitalize the endangered species.

While the female crow, Manaiakalani, continues to act as though incubating, researchers say it is normal for alala — the Hawaiian name for the crows — to perch on infertile or otherwise nonviable eggs.

“They’ll keep doing that until they realize they won’t hatch,” said Rachel Kingsley, education and outreach associate for The Alala Project.

The eggs were the first produced by a breeding pair in the wild since the species went extinct in the wild nearly 20 years ago. Only two out of five hatchlings usually survive to become fledglings, Kingsley said.

Infertile eggs are not uncommon among first-time alala breeding pairs, but the eggs could also have succumbed to improper incubation or cold temperatures.

“And sometimes, eggs just die,” Kingsley said.