Top Ten Wildlife Areas We Love (and Would Hate to Lose)

Rota Bridled White-Eye Bird
Rota Bridled White-Eye Bird
The White-Eye: A songbird with few reasons to sing (USFWS/Fred Amidon)

Why We Love It:

This gregarious little songbird can only be found on Rota, a South Pacific island in the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Less than three inches tall and weighing less than a slice of bread, this green- and yellow-plumaged bird is known for the distinctive white ring around its eyes.

Where It's Happiest:

White-eyes live in the tropical rainforests of Rota, nesting and foraging for small insects in yoga trees. They are highly social and forage in groups of five to seven birds. Their nests are made from roots, grass, moss, and spider-web strands. Prime breeding season ranges from December to August, ending with the female laying one to two light-blue eggs.

The Cold, Hard Numbers:

The white-eye population has dropped 89 percent since 1982, when almost 11,000 birds inhabited Rota. The most recent survey, done in 1999, estimated that 1,094 white-eyes now exist.

Who's to Blame:

Though no exact cause for the steep decline is known, USFWS biologists believe development, habitat destruction, typhoons, and natural predation have all played a role.

When It's Gone:

In addition to the ecological and biological impact, any loss of biodiversity could be detrimental to the island's budding eco-tourism industry. Last year, 700,000 people, mainly from North America, Asia, and Australia, visited the tiny island chain, and tourism continues to be the main factor in the economic growth of the region.

Signs of Life:

In March, the USFWS's Pacific Islands chapter listed the white-eye on the National Register of Endangered Species, a move that should help to prevent further habitat loss.

Published: 18 Mar 2004 | Last Updated: 7 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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