Happy 4th July!

So it looks like I will still be celebrating this 4th of July on the Pacific.  The next leg of the row to Marina del Rey is about 50 miles so it is probably going to take me 2 days to get there.  With no harbors to stop at in between it means that I will be out there on the night of the 4th.  I am hoping that I will still be able to see the celebrations though and maybe even have the best view there is.  I’ll be getting photos if I can and maybe I’ll eat my astronaut ice cream sandwich to celebrate.  I was planning on having it for my birthday but this seems like an appropriate time to try it out.

Given that it is the 4th of July tomorrow I’ve decided that I am going to row the next 50 miles in honor of one of the most endangered birds on this planet – and a native US species.  It is not a flashy parrot with a huge personality or color, but it is a bird worth saving and believe me they are in trouble.  The bird I will be rowing for is the Hawaiian Crow (Alala).

If you know something about Hawaiian birds you will know that as a whole they are the most endangered birds on this planet.  The rainforest birds have seen decreasing numbers due to habitat loss, introduced predators and of course the Hawaiian mosquito line.  They all have a severe impact on the birds.  But the Hawaiian Crow has it the worst, and is in fact extinct in the wild.  All the remaining birds are currently in a captive breeding program to try and boost their numbers.  How many are left?  Less than 140 – and that is tragic.

I had the honor of visiting the conservation program for the Hawaiian Crow last year and I can tell you that while these birds do not stand out like a parrot they absolutely have personality.  Of course when I say personality I don’t mean that they are necessarily interacting with people.  After all they need to be as wild as they can possibly be if they are to one day make it back into their natural habitat.  They are unique and I found some of their behavior fascinating.  Each day they are given foraging challenges, and while I was there we made foraging toys out of wild ginger (which incidentally grows as a pest in Hawaii).  We cut up the branches and wrapped the leaves around them to tie them together.  In amongst the leaves were 3 or 4 cheerios for the birds to eat.  What was amusing for me was that when these foraging items were thrown in to the enclosures there were two very different behaviors.  The crows obviously knew there was food in there for the,m but how they went about getting the cheerios out was the interesting part.  The males would come down and launch an all out attack on the leaves, hacking through them to get the cheerios.  The females however, came down, looked at the foraging toy – basically assessing it – and then would slowly slide their beak up through the leaves and extract the cheerios.  Two very different techniques.  Hmm.  Interesting.

With less than 140 birds remaining and absolutely none in the wild, these birds do not stand out in the crowd like a big bright parrot but they deserve the opportunity for survival.  What will that take?  It takes people on the ground working with them, which of course means funding is required.  So on this 4th of July I will be rowing in honor of them, and I hope you might consider donating a few dollars towards helping them.  Small amounts add up when it comes to helping save a species.

Hawaiian Crow playing with enrichment