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Mitred Conure Control on Maui


Hawai‘i has no native parrots (Psittacidae), but at least two species of this family have naturalized on the island of Maui, the result of accidental or deliberate releases of pet birds. A breeding pair of mitred conures was illegally released in approximately 1986 on the north shore of Maui. At its peak, a population of over 150 birds was documented, demonstrating that conures in Hawai‘i can be highly productive in the wild. These non-native birds pose a threat to Hawaiian ecosystems, agricultural productivity, and quality of life. They are highly adaptable, reproduce rapidly, eat a variety of fruits and seeds, are extremely loud, can carry viral and bacterial diseases, and may compete with native seabirds for cliffside burrows. Of particular concern is the conures’ ability to pass viable seed of highly invasive species, including Miconia calvescens, a tree which is found near the conures’ roosting/breeding areas. Information from the conures’ native range in South America suggests these birds can become established at elevations in excess of 3,000 meters, underscoring the potential for spreading invasive weeds into intact, native forests, and high value watersheds at upper elevations. In response to threats posed by mitred conures, a variety of strategies had been explored to reduce or eliminate the Maui population, including bait stations, live bird lures, mist nets, rappelling to locate roosts, and audio playbacks of conure vocalizations. None of these approaches proved successful. Shooting individual birds was deemed the most appropriate alternative and has been highly effective: approximately 20 birds remain in the wild. This paper highlights historic efforts, lessons learned, and the value of a cooperative interagency and community-based approach for removal of a non-native flock of mitred conures.

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