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Feds honor heroes for endangered and threatened birds

Recovery Champions
Birds that have benefitted from the work of 2018 Recovery Champions are (clockwise from top left); Western Snowy Plover, Black-capped Vireo, California Condor, ‘Akikiki, Spectacled Eider, and Steller’s Eider.

News about the health of the planet and its wildlife is undeniably bleak. But in spite of the doom and gloom, every day, women and men of deep conviction and wide expertise go to work on behalf of wild birds and other animals. And while their work doesn’t always produce dramatic headlines, they are making a difference.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its 2018 Recovery Champions — people who are on the agency’s staff or its partner organizations and whose work advances “the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals in the United States.”

FWS awarded individuals or teams from each of its eight regions, and in four of the regions, the honorees’ work directly benefited endangered or threatened birds. Here they are:

‘Akikiki, or Kauai Creeper. Photo by Carter Atkinson/USGS

Saving ‘Akikiki from Extinction Team

From Region 1, which covers Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Pacific Trust Territories, the FWS honored the Saving ‘Akikiki from Extinction Team. They include Lisa Cali Crampton and Justin Hiteof the Kaua’i Forest Bird Recovery Project, Megan Laut, Michelle Clark, John Vetter, and Jay NelsonofFish and Wildlife Service, and Bryce Masuda, Jeremy Hodges, Angela Ray, and Amy Klotzof San Diego Zoo Global. This post from the team notes that dozens of others also contributed to the work.

“Members of the Saving ’Akikiki from Extinction Team have worked tirelessly to lift the rare forest bird back from the brink and have persevered through numerous challenging obstacles to secure a population in conservation breeding centers,” FWS says. “From using helicopters and heavy ladders during severe weather to collect tiny ‘Akikiki eggs in the forest canopy, the team has proven their dedication to protecting this imperiled species. With 45 ‘Akikiki raised, reared, and cared for in an intensive care setting for the first time in history, the team has accomplished monumental milestones for conservation breeding efforts for this species and set the precedent for many more.”

Read more: Hawaiian honeycreeper populations collapsing on Kauai 

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at

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