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KS Keaau 4th grade 4-24-2015HFI initiated the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC) Discovery Forest in 2014.  KBCC sits on 40 acres within the 170-acre Keauhou Ranch in Kaʻū.  Birds being bred at KBCC are the ‘Alalā, (extinct in the wild) Palila, ‘Akeke‘e, and ‘Akikiki.  The site was once grazed and became primarily non-native grasses. As a result, there is a need to restore the site and add to the existing native species.  Since March 2014, 21.5 acres have been cleared and 3,651 volunteers have been engaged in forest stewardship activities, including outplanting 14,096 seedlings; comprised of 20 different native species.

The Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC) sits on 150 acres and is a partnership among the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and many other collaborators. The KBCC uses conservation breeding and reintroduction techniques to prevent extinction and to reestablish or supplement populations of critically endangered Hawaiian forest birds in the wild. This effort started in 1993 and KBCC opened in 1996. KBCC currently breeds four endangered forest bird species on-site, for the purposes of releasing them to restore wild populations, and ultimately to restore the land.

In addition to restoring an endemic forest and benefiting native Hawaiian birds, the KBCC Discovery Forest provides an opportunity for volunteers to connect and interact in a shared environment. It brings people together to work toward a shared vision, offers refuge for natural and cultural resources, and a place where volunteers can engage in the stewardship of their community.

Iwikau’ikaua (Iwi) Joaquin was KBCC Caretaker/Outreach Coordinator for many years.  He coordinated volunteer events and inspired youth to connect with their environment by facilitating service-learning activities, which connect science with culture.   Iwi and his family moved back to Maui this year.  Ulumauahi Kealiʻikanakaʻole took over as Caretaker/Outreach Coordinator in 2021.

The KBCC Discovery Forest 10-year Forest Stewardship Plan describes procedures to clear 40 acres, up to four acres per year dependent on available funds. KBCC Discovery Forest-Forest Stewardship Plan 2016.

Project Update 2023/2024

  • As of November 2023, 21.05 acres have been cleared and 3,700 volunteers have outplanted 13,800 seedlings, including Acacia koa, Māmane, Maile, ‘Ōhi‘a, Pa‘iniu, Ōhelo, Kawa‘u, Kōlea, Ōlapa, ‘Ohāwai, ‘Uki’uki, Popolo ku mai, and Pilo.  KBCC Discovery Forest Species Planted 2014-2022.
  • In 2023 HFI received a $8,900 grant from Hawai’i Tourism Authority and a $20,000 grant from Dorrance Family Foundation.
  • In 2024, HFI received a $20,000 grant from Dorrance Family Foundation.
  • The 2023 Hawai’i Bird Conservation Marathon was held Sunday, December 17th. The Hawaiʻi ʻĀkepa was the featured bird, learn more here. There were 106 runners who finished the race. Donations totaled $3,833. Learn more about the marathon here.   See results here.

KBCC Discovery Forest Project Summary

The land is owned by Kamehameha Schools and leased to KBCC, which is part of the Hawaii Endangered Bird Conservation Program, a partnership between the San Diego Zoo Global Institute for Conservation Research, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

We are addressing the need to perpetuate native birds and forest habitat by:

  • Restoring an endemic forest with Acacia Koa and ‘Ōhi’a as the pioneer species with an understory of fruiting species;
  • Improving habitat quality for endemic wild birds;
  • Providing hands-on education for students, with an emphasis on connections between rare endemic birds and their habitat; and
  • Providing forest materials (fruits, browse, perching limbs) for native Hawaiian birds.

Koa is important from a conservation perspective because it provides habitat for native plants and animals. On the Island of Hawai‘i, 10 endemic, extant forest bird species are currently found in forests where koa is a dominant or associated species. Koa also fixes nitrogen and is the dominant of crown cover in some areas. Koa provides watershed protection and is a very important part of Hawaiian culture.

Birds forage on insects on and within the koa tree and use tree cavities for nesting.  Wild bird species such as ‘Akiapōlā‘au are koa specialists and require large, old-growth koa trees for foraging on insect larvae.  ‘Akepa use koa for foraging and nesting in cavities.  ‘Ōma‘o also nest in koa tree cavities.

Birds at KBCC will eat many of the native understory fruiting species that will be planted in the Discovery Forest.  These fruiting species include Hō‘awa, Kōlea, Maile, Māmaki, Māmane, ‘Ōhelo, ‘Ōlapa, Pilo, and ‘Ie‘ie.  ‘Alala will eat fruit from all of these species, except Māmane.  Puaiohi will eat fruit from all of these species, except Hō‘awa, Māmane, and ‘Ie‘ie.  Palila will eat only Māmane seeds.  Maui Parrotbill will eat fruit from Kōlea, ‘Ōhelo, ‘Ōlapa, and Pilo.

The Discovery Forest, which is at an elevation is 4,000 foot, was once grazed by cattle and is now primarily covered in non-native kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum).  As a result, there is great potential to restore the site and add to the existing collection of native species, which are found in low densities.  The KBCC site is licensed to the Zoological Society of San Diego by Kamehameha Schools.

KBCC is part of the San Diego Zoo Global’s Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program, which conducts breeding and release activities to preserve and restore endemic Hawaiian birds.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide.  The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Kamehameha Schools (KS) is a private charitable educational trust endowed by the will of Hawaiian Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (1831-1884), the great-granddaughter and last direct descendant of King Kamehameha I.  The mission of Kamehameha Schools is to improve the capability and well-being of Hawaiians through education.  KS achieves its mission by operating an educational system serving over 6,900 students of Hawaiian ancestry at K-12 campuses on O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i island, and at 31 preschool sites statewide.  As Hawaii’s largest private landowner, KS is responsible for the stewardship of over 365,000 acres of land on Hawai‘i island, Maui, Moloka‘i, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i.  A small fraction of Princess Pauahi’s lands are in commercial real estate and properties. Over 358,000 acres of the trust’s lands are dedicated to conservation and agriculture. ( Information provided by KBCC Conservation Programs Manager Bryce Masuda.

American Forests’ Global ReLeaf
Atherton Family Foundation
Bill Healy Foundation
Cooke Foundation
Dorrance Family Foundation
Friends of Hawaii Charities
Hawai‘i Community Foundation
Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Natural Resources Program
DLNR Division of Forestry & Wildlife Forest Stewardship Program
In honor of Marla Dorrel & Gary Craven
Annual Hawai’i Bird Conservation Marathon
Little Outcrop
O’o Hawaii

Keauhou Bird Conservation Center and Hawai‘i Forest Institute working together to save endemic forest birds on the brink of extinction

‘AlalāAn Interview with Bryce Masuda, Conservation Program Manager for the non-profit Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program, whose parent organization is the San Diego Zoo Global. The Hawai‘i Endangered Bird Conservation Program collaborates with the community to conserve and restore Hawaiian plants and animals, with a focus on science, stewardship, and education.

> Read the interview

Hawai‘i Public Radio MAHALO ‘ĀINA Radio Series – YouTube
Saving The ‘Alalā (Hawaiian Crow) – YouTube

KBCC Discovery Forest Project Summary

Hawai’i Bird Conservation Marathon benefits KBCC Discovery Forest

The first Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon was held in December 16, 2017.  There were 100 runners in the race and $4,188 was raised through the marathon for the KBCC Discovery Forest.  Bob Kennedy, Ornithologist/Race Director is a member of the Big Island Road Runners, is President of the 50sub4 Marathon Club, and has run 182 marathons and ultra marathons (Finisher, Boston Qualifying Time in all 50 States; 50 States Marathon Club Finisher 2X; Marathon Maniacs – 10 Stars; 100 Marathon Club; New England 65 Plus Runners Club).  Mahalo to runners who donated.

The second annual Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon was held December 16, 2018.  A total of $5,915 in donations was raised for the KBCC Discovery Forest. The next Hawaii Bird Conservation Marathon will be held on Sunday, December 15, 2019.

The 5th Annual Hawai’i Bird Conservation Marathon was held on Sunday, December 17, 2023.  Alan Ryan continues to coordinate the marathon.  Register for the race here. 

O’o Hawaii Supports KBCC Discovery Forest

For every online sale, O’o Hawaii donates $1.00 to the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center Discovery Forest.  Learn more about O’o Hawaii at here.

Little Outcrop Supports KBCC  Discovery forest

Needle Felted ‘O’o Bird.

For every online sale of  Needle Felted Bird Ornaments, Little Outcrop donates to Keauhou Bird Conservation Center Discovery Forest. Learn more at about Little Outcrop here.



KBCC Discovery Forest nursery. 2021

HTA Logo American Forests logo-anniversary_horiz-logo

Forest Solutions, Inc.
Hawai‘i Forest Industry Association
Hawai‘i Forest Institute
Kamehameha Schools
Keauhou Bird Conservation Center
Hawaiian Endangered Bird Conservation Program
San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research

Public Relations

Native Hawaiian Trees Planted in Collaborative Effort Press Release-May 1, 2014
April 2014 Newsletter Article
HFIA Winter E-news Article
Atherton and Cooke press release 7-18-2017
Hawaii Tribune Herald: Restoring native habitat: Grants to go toward forest stewardship, bird conservation 7-21-2017
KBCC DF Volunteer Survey Quiz


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