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Maui invasive species experts try to track down tiny bird that can do a lot of damage

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:26 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2022 at 5:54 PM HST
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KAHULUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui invasive species experts are trying to track down a little bird that can do a lot of damage.

“We’ve been seeing it around Kahului, along Kaahumanu, down towards Spreckelsville,” said Elizabeth Speith, a pest report facilitator for the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.

“We’re asking everybody to keep an eye out and look for anything that looks like a black cardinal.”

Native to India and Pakistan, red-vented bulbuls look similar to red-crested cardinals.

However, the red-vented bulbuls have a different call, they’re dark, have a pointed crest on their head, white abdomen and rump and crimson under the tail.

Invasive species experts say they can cause major damage to Hawaii’s natural environment, watersheds and agriculture and orchid industries.

“If they get into the forest, they’ll often feed on things like the octopus tree, or people call that ‘hee’ and they will spread that. They can spread many of the other noxious weeds around that are really hazardous,” said Dr. Fern Duvall, chair of the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

The red-vented bulbul was first spotted in Spreckelsville in November.

Since then, there have been several other sightings in various areas around Kahului. There has also been a possible sighting in Honolua.

It’s unclear how the red-vented bulbul got to Maui, but the pest is well established on Oahu.

“We think that it’s just one right now,” said Speith.

Although experts believe it’s just a lone bird flying around the Valley Isle, it is marked as a high priority invasive pest for Hawaii.

The red-vented bulbul is also listed as one of the top 100 invasive species in the world.

“It’s really important to contact authorities and let them know that you’ve seen it,” said Duvall.

“Take a photo or even a recording if you have your phone, it’s going to pick up that call. They’re very loud, it’s very obvious.”

Red-vented bulbuls like to feed on papaya, mango, banana, lychee, and orchids. So specialists are hoping to capture it before a larger population is established.

“It’s still early on before that bird has become established, before there’s multiple birds, so we still have a chance to be able to capture and control this bird. That’s why it’s important,” Speith said.

If you see a red-vented bulbul, you are asked to take pictures or videos of it and immediately call 643-PEST (7378). You can also report it online at 643-PEST.org.

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