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Native birds at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge are in unprecedented trouble, according to a paper recently published in the journal PLoS ONE. The paper, titled "Changes in timing, duration, and symmetry of molt of Hawaiian forest birds," was authored by University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Zoology Professor Leonard Freed and Cell and Molecular Biology Professor Rebecca Cann.
Usually birds molt the same primary flight feathers on the two wings at the same time to maintain maneuverability. However, by 2002, all species had asymmetric molt of these feathers. This is the first time asymmetric molt has been documented throughout a community of birds. This molt was experimentally seen previously in food-limited birds. In laboratory situations, starvation of birds to 60% of normal diet leads to the changes in molt that Freed and Cann observed in nature.