The ‘alalā, or Hawaiian crow, is a culturally and environmentally important species. Esteemed by local people, the raven also serves as a seed disperser vital to regenerating native forests on Hawai‘i Island. Declared extinct in the wild in 2002, collaborative work as led to an assurance population robust enough for some birds to be released back into the wild.
A clutch may contain one to four speckled, blue-green eggs about the size of a golf ball.
By artificially incubating them, the female may “double clutch” and lay more eggs.
Candling ‘alalā eggs regularly allows researchers to monitor the development of the embryos.
The pink, featherless hatchling pips its way out of the shell inside a “hatcher,” which is kept warm and humid so the animal does not dehydrate during the strenuous activity, which can take up to 36 hours to complete.
Newly hatched chicks require patient, frequent feedings.
Every two hours they are fed a precise diet including fruit, honeybee larvae and cricket guts.
Staff at the center collect native berries and fruits for the growing ‘alalā.
Once the birds’ eyes open, they are fed with ‘alalā look-alike puppets to prevent them from imprinting on humans.
Keepers maintain meticulous records on each bird, documenting weight, food intake and fecal output, and developmental milestones.
At about two months old, when the birds can feed themselves, they are moved to an outdoor acclimation pen. This helps to prepare them for release back into the forest.