Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands
Small Kaua‘i Thrush / Myadestes palmeri / Puaiohi
||The small Kaua‘i or puaiohi thrush is 7 inches in length and is dark brown with a gray and whitish belly. It has a white eye ring, a dark slender bill, and pink legs. Sexes are similar in appearance. Young puaiohi (pictured) have a scalloped appearance.
|Puaiohi - Photo credit J. Kuhn/The Peregrine Fund
Habitat & Behavior:
The puaiohi is a very secretive bird, and prefers fern and sedge covered stream banks in the ‘ohi‘a forest in the eastern Alaka‘i Swamp above 4,000 feet. Unlike the Kama‘o with a sweet melodious song, the puaiohi’s song is said to be a “squeaking of a metal wheel in need of lubrication.” This forest bird likes to eat the purple berries of the native ‘olapa plant. It will also eat spiders and caterpillars found in the rainforest.
Past & Present:
The puaiohi was considered a rare bird as early as the 1900s. From the period of 1968-73, only 177 of this forest bird were recorded. Scientists believe that between 300 to 500 puaiohi inhabit the Alaka‘i Swamp today. The puaiohi is presently the focus of a major research and conservation effort being conducted by State, federal, and private organizations. Habitat destruction, avian disease, habitat damage caused by goats and pigs, predation by cats and rats, and competition from alien plants pose serious threats to their survival.
The Forest Reserve Act of 1907 was an important step in protecting watersheds and forests for Hawai‘i’s native birds. The Alaka‘i Wilderness Preserve and the Koke‘e State Park established by the State of Hawai‘i are prime habitats for the endangered forest birds of Kaua‘i. In 1999, 14 captively bred puaiohi were released into the Alaka‘i Wilderness Preserve by The Peregrine Fund. Within two months, most of these young birds had already found a mate, and several were building nests. This species became the first captively bred Hawaiian forest bird species to successfully hatch chicks in the wild when two chicks hatched in April 1999. Capative releases have continued and nearly 200 captive-reared puaiohi have been released.
The puaiohi was listed as an endangered species on March 11, 1967. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has written several recovery plans detailing actions necessary to protect and preserve Hawai‘i’s forest birds. The puaiohi is included in the Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds (2006).