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Feds propose downlisting the Aeʻo (Hawaiian Stilt)

Ae‘o (Hawaiian Stilt). Photo by Gary Kramer/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to downlist the Aeʻo (Hawaiian Stilt) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a move it credits to conservation partnerships. The agency is seeking public comment on the proposed change by May 24.

“The service is proud of our record of partnering with diverse stakeholders to conserve and recover imperiled species,” said Regional Director Robyn Thorson. “We look forward to continuing the collaborations that have led to the improved status of the Aeʻo and the countless other species that share its habitat.”

The Aeʻo is a wading bird that occurs on all the main Hawaiian Islands, except Kahoʻolawe. It is considered a subspecies of North America’s Black-necked Stilt. Hawaii’s birds differ by having more black on the face and neck and a longer bill, tarsus, and tail.

The Aeʻo was originally listed as endangered in 1970 due to destruction and alteration of habitat, hunting, introduced predatory animals, and non-native birds and disease. Over the past three decades, diverse stakeholders have come together to manage Hawaiian wetlands in ways compatible with the needs of the Aeʻo and that address threats to the species.

“State managed wetlands and national wildlife refuges have been essential for the recovery of the Aeʻo. The State of Hawaiʻi and other conservation partners have been key in helping the Aeʻo move toward recovery, said Acting Service Field Supervisor Mary Abrams. “Protected wetlands and continued invasive predator control are essential for protecting the bird into the future.” 

Remaining challenges to recovery of the Aeʻo include non-native animal predation (e.g., mongooses, cats and rats), habitat loss, development, type C botulism, and the effects of climate change. However, survey data and a recent population viability analysis indicate that populations have been stable to increasing for several decades on the eight islands where it exists. These trends are expected to continue into the foreseeable future, as long as conservation efforts continue. These practices include predator control, management of vegetation, and water levels. 

The proposed downlisting includes a proposed 4(d) rule that facilitates conservation and management of Aeʻo where they currently occur and may occur in the future through increased flexibility by removing the federal take prohibition under certain conditions. These flexibilities are aimed at encouraging support for habitat management and providing federal and non-federal entities with a way to reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

Comments on the proposed rule must be received prior to or postmarked by May 24 and may be submitted electronically to the Federal eRulemaking portal at, or via U.S. mail to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R1–ES–2018–06571, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

All comments and materials received become part of the public record associated with this action. Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personally identifiable information in your comments, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personally identifiable information—may be made publicly available at any time.

Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for providing this news.

A hotspot for Ae‘o: Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Kihei

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