HILO, Hawaii — Conservationists have released seven Hawaiian crows into the wild, increasing the population of the critically endangered birds, officials said.
The Hawaiian crows, or Alala, joined nearly 20 other birds released in the Big Island's Puu Makaala Natural Forest Reserve over the past two years, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday.
The release earlier this month was part of the Alala Project, a revitalization effort by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and San Diego Zoo Global.
The birds were given names by students from Big Island schools, officials said.
The Hawaiian crows were declared extinct in the wild in 2002, but have gradually been reintroduced in groups since 2017, officials said.
Eleven crows were released in 2017, including one that suffered an injury and was retrieved by the Alala Project and released again this month. Two birds have been confirmed dead, according to officials. One was killed by a Hawaiian hawk and the other showed signs of having suffered undetermined predatory attack.
Some of the birds have formed breeding pairs and built nests together, raising hopes they will reproduce in the wild soon, officials said.
The birds engaging in "the full suite of breeding and nest building behaviors in their first season as adults represents a huge step forward for the program and their recovery as a species," San Diego Zoo Global research associate Alison Greggor said in a statement.