The Alala, or native Hawaiian crow, is extinct in the wild. In the 1990s, there were less than 20 of the birds left on earth.

In a concerted effort to save the species, Alala have been hatched and reared at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers as part of a partnership between the state and federal land and wildlife regulators and the San Diego Zoo. All told, 21 birds have been released into a protected forest on Hawaii Island during the last two years.

Now researchers have discovered a nest built by two birds named Manaolana and Manaiakalani. Recently, the female bird Manaiakalani has started sitting on the nest and researchers believe there could be eggs under her jet-black rump.

Two Alala, the native Hawaiian crow, have reached a new milestone, one not seen in the forests of Hawaiʻi for almost 20 years: They have built a nest. The species is extinct in the wild.

San Diego Zoo Global

The very existence of an Alala nest is a milestone — something not seen in Hawaii forests in nearly 20 years. Since there are no adult Alala in the wild for the reintroduced birds to learn from, Manaolana and Manaiakalani were guided by instincts in assembling the nest.

But researchers say first-time Alala parents are typically unsuccessful in hatching and fledging their chicks. It could very well take the birds several attempts to contribute to the repopulation of this imperiled species.

The birds typically lay three to five eggs and will incubate them for about 21 days. If the eggs hatch, the chicks would be the first Alala hatched in the wild in two decades.

Feeding time for baby Alala crows at the San Diego Zoo.

Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo

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