One of the primary goals of this field work is to translocate some of the critically endangered Golden White-eyes to an uninhabited, predator-free island in the CNMI chain. In the past phases of the MAC project translocations have been done with Bridled White-eyes as a trial to see how they would fair on a new island home. The Bridled White-eye translocation was successful – the birds not only survived but nested and raised chicks on their new home.
This year we are translocating 24 Golden White-eyes from Saipan to Sarigan. Sarigan is about 2 hours from Saipan via Helicopter.
The translocation is scheduled for Thursday – so for the 2 days before I poured over all the weight and size data for the White-eyes and have to choose 24 birds out of the 40 that we have to send for release. While looking at the data, I try to choose birds that may not adapt well to captivity (because we are bringing 12 birds back to the US for captive breeding). After several hours of looking at weights, wing, and tarsus measurements, I have picked out the 24 birds that will call Sarigan home – and as luck would have it, they turn out to be 12 males and 12 females.
The night before the release we put color bands on the birds – each bird will have a unique color band combination so that field researchers can identify them. Once the birds are banded, they go into their special transport crates.
Early the next morning, project leader Herb Roberts, Curator of Birds at the Memphis Zoo, loads them up into the helicopter to take to their new island home.
At least the people in the helicopter had a very impressive view on the way to the white-eye’s new home.
After they landed on Sarigan, the crates are taken into the forest to let the white-eyes enjoy their new island paradise (although some of the white-eyes are a little more cautious than the otehrs).
Next spring, field researchers from DFW will come to Sarigan and look for unbanded Golden White-eyes. Any birds without a leg band will be off-spring from the 24 that we moved. We are very hopeful that they will breed and thus grow an ‘insurance’ population of this beautiful species that is protected from the dangers on their home island of Saipan.
After the release on Sarigan, we still had extra birds remaining in our care. We originally caught 18 Rufous Fan-tails and 42 Golden White-eyes. Since we are only taking 12 Fantails and 12 White-eyes back to the United States; we needed to choose the birds to return to their original trapping location. After looking carefully at the food consumption of the birds we trapped; we chose 6 Fantails and 6 White-eyes to re-release. Mid-day on the day after the translocation, we took these birds back out to their original trap location. Most of the fantails flew out of the crate with hast… however, the White-eyes, always curious, usually eyed their surroundings prior to flying out of their crate.
While we were back at our netting sites, we were able to see check-up on the Bridled White-eye nest that was near trap 1… and we were very pleased to see that one chick had hatched and the 2nd egg was in the hatching process. It looks like it will be another successful spring for the birds on Saipan.
Make sure you haven’t missed out! Read the rest of the series HERE!