Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands
‘Ākepa (quick, nimble, active) / Loxops coccineus
||The male Hawai‘i ‘ākepa is bright red-orange, while the Maui male is dull bronze-yellow. The female ‘ākepa has a greenish top and yellow belly. This species has a short conical bill, a long, notched tail, and is usually four to five inches in length. The Hawai‘i ‘ākepa is also known as ‘akakane, and the Maui ‘ākepa as ‘akepeu‘ie. Once known as the Kau‘ai ‘ākepa, the ‘akeke‘e is now considered a different species.
|Hawai‘i ‘ākepa - Photo credit © Jack Jeffrey
Habitat & Behavior:
One of the smallest honeycreepers, the ‘ākepa can be found in ‘ōhi‘a and koa-‘ōhi‘a forests above 4,500 feet. They like to move in small flocks and nest in tree cavities. Their diet consists primarily of insects and spiders. They use their odd-shaped crossed bills to pry open ‘ōhi‘a buds, small seed pods, and galls in search of food. They have been known to drink nectar from ‘ōhi‘a and other flowers. Their "kee-wit" calls are quiet and their songs are a short, warbling trill.
Past & Present:
The ‘ākepa was once found on O‘ahu, Maui, and the Big Island, but are believed to dwell only on the Big Island and Maui today. The ‘ākepa was common in the 1800s on Maui, but the largest population today remains on the Big Island (estimated at 12,000). The smallest population today is on Maui with an estimated number of 230 in the early 1980s. Maui ‘ākepa were last seen in 1988 and heard in 1995. O ‘ahu ‘ākepa were documented to be rare even in the 1800s and are believed to be extinct today, with the last possible sighting in 1976. Aggressive alien plants and animals and loss of habitat are threats to the survival of the ‘ākepa.
Protecting the ‘ākepa and other native birds of Hawai‘i requires that suitable habitat for them to live and breed in be protected. The Fish and Wildlife Service established the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge primarily for the welfare of Hawai‘i's forest birds. Eliminating feral animals and revegetating these lands with native plants are ways to help Hawai‘i's native birds. The Maui and Hawai‘i ‘ākepa were listed as an endangered species on October 13, 1970.