The diminutive Laysan Duck may be a ”small brown job” but its wow factor comes from an engaging personality and an intriguing history. In the wild, this duck is critically endangered. Away from its fragile homeland on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the species is doing well in captivity. There is a worry that breeding success in our mixed collections could be contributing to an eventual demise, as hybridisation is not always obvious. Read about our new study here.
Fossil evidence shows that the Laysan Duck was once widely distributed across the Hawaiian Islands before the arrival of human beings around 1,500 years ago. Laysan Island was the last haven after hunters and introduced predators stripped the species from everywhere else. Today, guano is used in organic farming as a natural source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, but we hope that our sources are more responsible than they were a hundred years ago. It is widely thought that the fragile ecosystem of Laysan Island, along with Midway Atoll and other similar Pacific Islands will be inundated by the end of this century. We hope Project Laysan Duck will at least raise awareness about one small pearl in the wonderful waterfowl order.