Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands
‘O‘u / Psittirostra psittacea
||The ‘o‘u is a large, plump forest bird measuring 7 inches in length. Males have a bright yellow head, dark green back, and an olive-green belly. Females are duller with an olive-green head. The ‘o‘u has a pink finch-like bill and pink legs.
|‘O‘u - Photo credit Rob Shallenberger/USFWS
Habitat & Behavior:
The ‘o‘u is presently restricted to the mid-elevation ‘ōhi‘a forests of the Big Island and the Alakai Swamp on Kaua‘i. This bird feeds on fruits, insects, and buds and blossoms of ‘ōhi‘a. The breeding biology of this bird is unknown, although juveniles have been seen in June, sugesting a March to May breeding season. The ‘o‘u’s call is an ascending or descending whistle that may break into a sweet and distinct canary-like song.
Past & Present:
Although it was once common on all the main Hawaiian islands, by the late 1970s and early 1980s, only small populations remained on Kaua‘i and the Big Island. Only three birds were recorded during a survey on Kaua‘i in 1989, and the last recorded sighting from the Big Island was in 1987.
Like other native forestbirds of Hawai‘i, many factors contributed to this bird’s decline: avian diseases, competition with introduced animals for food, elimination or degradation of habitat, predation, collecting, and hunting. Island species are particularly vulnerable to one or more of these threats because of their low numbers and restricted geographical distributions.
The ‘o‘u was listed as an endangered species on March 11, 1967 under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds was published in 2006. This recovery plan recommends active land management, controlling the spread of introduced plants and animals, closely monitoring new land activity or development to prevent further destruction of forest bird habitat, and the establishment of captive propagation and sperm bank programs.
The ‘o‘u was last seen on the Big Island in the ‘Ola‘a area . This area today is being protected by a multiparty group including State, federal, and private entities.