Diseased mosquitoes threaten extinction for Hawaiian birds

WAILUKU, Maui (AP) — Federal and state officials on Maui want to use bacteria to get rid of nonnative mosquitoes that carry avian malaria to help prevent the extinction of native forest birds found only in Hawaii.

The National Park Service and Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources are proposing to give the mosquitoes bacteria that hinders their ability to fertilize eggs and reproduce, The Maui News reported Friday.


The birds — Hawaiian honeycreepers — have been dying of disease and need urgent protection, Haleakala National Park superintendent Natalie Gates said.

“We do not have time to wait on this,” Gates said during a virtual public meeting this week.

The “mosquito birth control” method could significantly help the bird population because while other threats exist, avian malaria is among the species’ biggest killers, said Lainie Berry, forest bird recovery coordinator with Hawaii’s DLNR.

“The honeycreepers are found nowhere else in the world,” said Berry. “Sadly, because of the increase in human activities, many of them have gone extinct.”

Of the six Hawaiian honeycreepers species on Maui, three are listed as endangered.

The southern house mosquito was introduced to Maui in 1826. Avian malaria causes “rapid mortality” in honeycreepers and could cause extinction for some species within 10 years, Berry said.

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