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Lord Howe Island Woodhen

posted 18 Jun 2017, 23:27 by Jamie Derkenne   [ updated 18 Jun 2017, 23:28 ]
This Woodhen was found foraging near Middle Beach, Lord Howe Island in June 2017. It gave a shrill piercing cry and ran off rapidly clutching what looked like a mouse in its beak shortly after being filmed.



When explorers first discovered Lord Howe Island in 1788, they identified 15 bird species including the then common woodhen. Being flightless, curious, and having never been hunted, they became a readily available source of food for visiting sailors and the island's early human population. Since its discovery and the arrival of settlers on the island in 1834, nine of these 15 species became extinct. The woodhen declined in numbers until the late 1970s, when surveys showed that the population had dropped to less than 30 birds, confined to the difficult to access summit regions of the island's two mountains, Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird.[3] The woodhen was at the very brink of extinction in 1980, with just 15 individuals found.

A comprehensive study was carried out to determine the cause of the decline, which was eventually attributed to the introduction of feral pigs. The elimination of the pigs and other disruptive animals (goats), plus a programme of ex-situ conservation (captive breeding) which commenced in May 1980 (the first egg was laid in June 1980), allowed the Lord Howe woodhen to recover its numbers. The captive breeding program was funded with $150,000 from the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, which was spent to construct the compound and to employ scientists involved in this project.