The Nihoa Millerbird is a tiny land bird that was discovered on the island of Nihoa in 1923. Another subspecies once occurred on Laysan Island, where it went extinct in the early 20th century after the island was devegetated by introduced rabbits. It has dark gray-brown feathers above, a buffy-white belly, and a thin dark colored bill. This bird got its name because its favorite food is the miller moth. Male and female birds are similar looking. They hves a metallic and bubbling voice.
These shy little birds spend their time near the ground in goosefoot (Chenopodium sanwicheum) and ilima (Sida Fallax) foraging for food. Their nests are constructed of grass stems and rootlets and concealed in small shrubs. Nesting may occur anytime between January and May, and an average of two eggs are laid.
The Nihoa Millerbird was found only on Nihoa and because Nihoa is a mere 156 acres, its habitat is very limited. On September 2, 2011, a scientific expedition began, led by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Bird Conservancy (ABC), to establish a second population of this endangered bird on Laysan Island to guard against possible extinction. A second translocation was completed in August of 2012.
Millerbirds have been absent from Laysan for nearly 100 years after a closely related subspecies went extinct in the early 20th Century. As part of a decades-long restoration effort, this translocation restores this insect-eating songbird to Laysan’s ecosystem. Biologists from FWS and ABC, avian husbandry experts, and a wildlife veterinarian took special care to ensure the safe transport and arrival of the Millerbirds at Laysan after their 3-day voyage from Nihoa.
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Until 2011, the Nihoa Millerbird was found only on Nihoa Island. Today, it thrives on Laysan Island due to translocation efforts by the USFWS and American Bird Conservancy.