January 26, 2017
A study published in the January edition of the journal Animal Behaviour documents significant changes in the vocalizations that 'alalā make today, when compared with those recorded in the wild more than a decade ago. The study indicates that although the vocal repertoire continues to be rich and varied, it has changed significantly over time. "This is a significant cultural change in the species," said Patrick Hart, a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. "Of particular note is the fact that there appear to be fewer alarm and territory calls in the population, and the frequency of alarm calls is greatly reduced."
The 'alalā, or Hawaiian crow, has been extinct in the wild since 2002, preserved only at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers managed by San Diego Zoo Global's Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program. Scientists hypothesize that the change in vocalizations represents changes in the kind of behaviors necessary to the species while maintained in the protected aviaries of the breeding center.