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Laysan carrion - a bird that has disappeared today
The Laysan cracker, a flightless bird of the shepherd family, was endemic to the small uninhabited island of Laysan, located in the Hawaiian archipelago.
In 1828, the island was discovered by the expedition of the Russian navigator Mikhail Stanyukovich, whose team discovered the curious and fearless bird. The researchers explained these qualities by the fact that on an isolated island the birds did not have natural enemies - and even 125 thousand years ago, the chase lost the ability to fly.
Until 1892, Laysan remained uninhabited and was considered one of the largest bird colonies in the South Pacific.
However, from 1892 to 1904, there was an active mining of guano on the island. To feed the workers, rabbits were brought there, which destroyed all the grass. This led to the death of the carrion population.
In 1923, the famous naturalist and cameraman Donald Dickey visited Lysan on the instructions of the Smithsonian Institution. It is believed that by that time on the island, completely devoid of vegetation, there were only two carriages left.
Dickie managed to film one of them.
The Laysan cracker was 15 cm long and had very small, rounded wings. While flying shepherds often have 11 primary flight feathers, the Laysan rush has only 8 of them, and the eighth feather is the same length as the first.
The Laysan cracker originally lived on Laysan Island, a member of the Leeward Hawaiian Islands. Then a number of birds were released to the Lisyansky, Midway and Sand islands.
The Laysan bogeyman fed mainly on insects and bird eggs, as well as on carrion, less often on herbaceous plants and seeds. They often caught insects with their beaks in the air.
They were very mobile and often jumped on the table to find pieces of meat there. They never left their burrows located at a depth of 1.50 m. The Laysan chase was very curious and was not afraid of people. He had no serious natural enemies on the island. Palmer wrote that he caught them by placing a net on the ground. The birds immediately came running and saw what it was. Even stranger, the chase returned to its nest while the photographer was 60 cm away, setting up his camera to photograph the nest. The photographer took the bird out of the nest twice, but it again almost immediately returned back to the nest.
The birds built a bowl-shaped nest under a grassy shelter or in a bush, in extreme cases they camouflaged their nest themselves. Access to the nest was indirect, obviously to protect it from the destroyers. The eggs were 3.1 cm long and 2.1 cm wide. Hatching took place from May to June. The clutch contained 3 eggs on average.
Black chicks with a yellow beak were born in June. They quickly learned to feed themselves and could run for 5 days as nimbly as their parents. In the population of Midway Island, chicks hatched in March, their development proceeded there earlier by 3 months.
The first birds were discovered by the crew of the ship "Moller", who visited the island in 1828. Birds were fairly common on Laysan in 1891, with a population of about 2,000. Several specimens were caught by Rothschild. In 1892, the species got its name.
Initially, the range of the species was limited to the island of Laysan with an area of about 5 km². At the beginning of the 20th century, birds were successfully settled on the Midway Islands.
For the next 30 years, the Laysan chase lived on Laysan, although guano was mined here for 15 years. The release of rabbits by the workers led to the fact that almost all the vegetation on the island was eaten and destroyed. This led to the extinction of three terrestrial bird species: the subspecies of the Hawaiian warbler (Acrocephalus familiaris familiaris), a subspecies of the fiery Hawaiian flower girl (Himathione sanguinea freethii) and the Laysan chase. In 1923, most of the rabbits were destroyed, the rest died out due to natural causes.
The reintroduction of birds from the Midway Islands undertaken in the same year was unsuccessful. Due to rats and the destruction of shrubs, the species also became extinct on the Midway Islands.
The closest related species is the crumbling chase (Porzana pusilla).
The Laysan cracker lost its ability to fly probably less than 125,000 years ago.