Hawaiian Crow Fact File
Wild 18 years
Captive 25 years
Extinct in the Wild
The Hawaiian crow is a species of corvid exclusively found on the island of Hawaii but now considered to be extinct in the wild. They are also known as the ‘Alalā.’
A population of a little over 100 birds remain in captivity at two breeding centers operated by San Diego Zoo Global.
In the wild they would feed on a range of fruits, eggs, insects and carrion. They played an important role in dispersing seeds through the environment.
These birds are considered highly intelligent and are one of the few birds in which tool use has been recorded. Hawaiian crows will make use of sticks to access food.
They face threats from habitat loss, introduced predators and hunting but efforts continue to hopefully return them to the wild in the future.
Read on to learn more about these brilliant birds.
Hawaiian crows are colored dark brown or black in color with the wings featuring a lighter color when compared to the rest of the body. On the throat is a patch of long, bristly feathers.
An average Hawaiian crow will measure 50cm (20in) long with an average weight of 0.5kg (1lbs).
Hawaiian crows are omnivores. They feed on fruits, nuts, eggs, young birds, insects and carrion.
These birds were an important part of the ecosystem as they would distribute seeds of many Hawaiian plants through the ecosystem.
Hawai’i is the only place in the world where the Hawaiian crow will naturally live. The population was know from the big island but bones have been located on Maui which indicates a larger range historically.
In the wild Hawaiian crows could be found living in forest and woodland. The last wild birds were confined to high mountain forests.
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Pairs of Hawaiian crows are primarily monogamous but extra-pair matings have been observed.
Nest building begins in March and pairs will deposit their first eggs in April. In to the nest the female lays 1 to 5 eggs which are incubated for 20-25 days. Females complete all of the incubation and brooding.
Once the eggs hatch the male will help to feed the nestlings. Parents provide food for the chicks until eight months old. Their first flight will occur around 40 days old.
Their nest is formed from sticks among a tree.
Sexual maturity is reached by 2 years old for females and between 2 and 4 years old for males.
Hawaiian crows are highly vocal. They will produce 24 different calls which include squeals and growls. Some of their calls have been described as human like.
Predators and Threats
The Hawaiian crow has been considered extinct in the wild since 2002 but persists in managed care. In 2016 attempts begun to reintroduce the species but of 30 birds released only 5 survived. These were returned to captivity in 2020.
One of the largest threats to the Hawaiian Crow was the Hawaiian Hawk or ‘Io.
Introduced predators such as rats, mongoose and cats. Introduced ungulates such as goats, cattle, sheep and more have disturbed the understory reducing their food sources.
Populations in managed care have grown from less than 20 in the 1990s to around 110 today.
Hawaiian crows have been threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, inbreeding related issues and predation by introduced mammals.
Humans would hunt the species. Some were killed by pig hunters who would hunt the birds as they would scare off the pigs by uttering their alarm call.
Hawaiian crows are also known as the ‘Alalā.’
These birds are seen as some of the smartest birds in existence and have been recorded to use tools. Tool use is recorded in few birds. They use it when foraging for food.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. 2021. ‘Alala. [online] Available at: <https://science.sandiegozoo.org/species/alala> [Accessed 17 July 2021].
Steutermann Rogers, K. 2021. The Hawaiian Crow Is Once Again Extinct in the Wild. [online] Available at: <https://www.audubon.org/news/the-hawaiian-crow-once-again-extinct-wild> [Accessed 17 July 2021].
Dlnr.hawaii.gov. 2021. ʻAlalā Project. [online] Available at: <https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/alalaproject/> [Accessed 17 July 2021].
Gaworecki, M., 2021. Hawaiian crow could help us learn about evolutionary origins of tool-using behavior. [online] Mongabay Environmental News. Available at: <https://news.mongabay.com/2016/09/hawaiian-crow-could-help-us-learn-about-evolutionary-origins-of-tool-using-behavior/> [Accessed 17 July 2021].
Endangeredlist.org. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://endangeredlist.org/animal/hawaiian-crow/> [Accessed 17 July 2021].
Corvidresearch.blog. 2021. hawaiian crow. [online] Available at: <https://corvidresearch.blog/tag/hawaiian-crow/> [Accessed 17 July 2021].
BirdLife International. 2016. Corvus hawaiiensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22706052A94048187. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22706052A94048187.en. Downloaded on 17 July 2021.
Animals.sandiegozoo.org. 2021. ‘Alalā (Hawaiian crow) | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants. [online] Available at: <https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/alala-hawaiian-crow> [Accessed 17 July 2021].
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