Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands
Kaua‘i ‘Akialoa / Hemignathus procerus
||The Kaua‘i ‘akialoa measures about seven and a half inches in length and has a very long downcurved bill one third the length of its body. Adult males are bright olive-yellow above and yellow below. Throat, breast, and sides of the body are olive-yellow. Females are green-gray above and have shorter bills.
|Kaua‘i ‘akialoa - Painting by Sheryl Ives Boynton
Habitat & Behavior:
The Kaua‘i ‘akialoa is believed to live in high elevation native forests on Kaua‘i. This very rare and unique bird uses its long curved bill to feed on the nectar of ‘ōhi‘a and lobeliads. It also eats insects from tree barks and from under lichens and mosses.
Past & Present:
The Kaua‘i ‘akialoa, like other ‘akialoa subspecies, were rare even when they were discovered in the 1700s. According to fossil records, their numbers declined noticeably in the early 1900s. It is believed that because they frequented low elevations, they were subject to introduced diseases found in these environments. The last documented Kaua‘i ‘akialoa was seen in 1965. ‘Akialoa were historically known on all the larger Hawaiian islands. Because these birds are so rare, not much is known about their life history.
Drastic changes to low elevation ecosystems contributed to the decline of many forest birds on Kaua‘i. These changes began when the Polynesians settled on the island and cleared land for crops, and continued after western contact with urbanization, agriculture, and introduction of alien animals and plants. Today, only 40,000 acres of Kaua‘i have not been drastically altered. Avian diseases and parasites also pose a major threat to Hawai‘i's forest birds.
The Forest Reserve Act of 1903 paved the way to protecting watershed and forests. In 1907, the Hawaiian Territorial Legislature passed a law to protect native perching birds. In 1964, two scientists, F. Richardson and J. Bowles, published A Survey of the Birds of Kaua‘i and introduced the world to these birds. The Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds, published in 2006, includes the Kaua‘i ‘akialoa.
The Kaua‘i ‘akialoa was listed as an endangered species on March 11, 1967, under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Service began bird surveys on Kaua‘i during the period of 1968-1973. Extensive work on the Puaiohi, another rare Kaua‘i forest bird, has yielded no sightings of the Kaua‘i ‘akialoa.