Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands
Laysan Finch / Telespiza cantans
||The Laysan finch is a member of the honeycreeper family. The adult male has a yellow head, breast, and back, a gray neck collar, and whitish belly. The adult female has a yellow crown with some brown streaking, a gray collar, yellow throat and breast, and the back feathers have dark brown spots edged with brown with a trace of yellow. Yellow on the female is less brilliant than that on the male. The length is 6 to 6.5 inches and the male is slightly larger than the female.
|Laysan finch - Photo credit USFWS
Habitat & Behavior:
The Laysan finch is endemic on Laysan Island. Nesting begins in February and continues into May, with adults building nests in the crannies of rocks or in clumps of the native bunchgrasses. The clutch size averages three eggs. Adults forage on the ground and among the bushes for seeds, roots, carrion, and invertebrates.
Past & Present:
Laysan finches are frequently surveyed on Laysan Island. In July, the 2004 population estimate was 17,780 plus or minus 2,819 individuals. A population introduced to Midway Atoll in 1891 grew to a sizable number but was destroyed by rats during World War II. After rabbits were eliminated in 1923 on Laysan Island, the Laysan finch steadily recovered as vegetation returned to the island. In order to reduce the risk of complete extinction via one destructive event, such as extremely dry years or huge storms, a group of birds was introduced to Pearl and Hermes Reef in 1967 where they now survive in small numbers. In 2004, the population was estimated as 324 individuals.
Laysan finch was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service March 11, 1967. The island of Laysan is part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, thereby providing protection for the species' habitat. Laysan is not a populated island, and access to it is strictly controlled. Biologists and other researchers who are permitted access to the island are carefully inspected to ensure that they do not accidentally introduce seeds, eggs, or insects to Laysan via their clothes or equipment. Although the speciescurrently appears to be in little danger, its limited range places it at constant risk from weather effects and the threat of invasive species.
In 2006, the Service contracted an assessment and valuing of potential translocation sites for the Laysan finch. Establishing additional populations will reduce the extinction risk for this species by improving its distribution and increasing total numbers.