Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Service Proposes Protections for ‘I’iwi Under Endangered Species Act

September 19, 2016

Contact(s):

Paul Brown, Dillon_Brown@fws.gov, (808) 792-9535           


The long, down-curved, orange bill of the 'I'iwi in the Hakalau Forest NWR helps it sip nectar from tubular flowers. Credit: Credit: Jack Jeffrey/USFWS

HONOLULU, Hawaii – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has determined that the ‘i’iwi, a fiery red Hawaiian nectar-eating bird in the honeycreeper family, warrants listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Unique to the Hawaiian Islands, the ‘i’iwi was once one of the most common forest birds there, but in recent years has suffered drastic population declines as a result of introduced avian malaria and habitat loss. ESA protections will help focus additional resources and conservation efforts addressing primary threats to the bird.

“With focused and timely action by local and federal partners, we still have the opportunity to save the ‘i’iwi, as well as the other plants and animals that share its habitat,” said Mary Abrams, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Service. “The proposed listing of this bird – once so abundant across the Hawaiian Islands – should be a call to action for all Hawaiians and others to address the threats posed to all our forest birds.”

The status review and proposed listing rule for the ‘i’iwi are based on the best scientific information available. Avian malaria is the primary driver in the ongoing declines in abundance and range of the species. Avian malaria is carried by introduced mosquitoes, and because native Hawaiian birds evolved in the absence of mosquitos and most avian diseases, these birds have little or no natural immunity. Avian malaria kills approximately 95 percent of infected ‘i’iwis.

Climate change is expected to further exacerbate the impact of avian malaria on the ‘i’iwi and other native Hawaiian birds as warmer conditions allow disease-carrying mosquitos to move higher up the mountains into areas that have, until now, been safe havens from the disease. The ‘i’iwi is unable to survive at the highest elevations due to a lack of suitable habitat, meaning it is being constrained to an ever-narrowing band of forest.

Additionally, the ‘i’iwi is dependent on forests composed primarily of native ohia trees. On the island of Hawaii, home to 90 percent of the remaining ‘i’iwi, the tree disease rapid ohia death has recently been identified as a new source of habitat loss and degradation.

“Mosquitos are wreaking havoc on the ‘i’iwi and other native bird populations in Hawaii, and the Service is continuing to search for a solution to the problem so we can save these species that play such an important role in making Hawaii such a special place,” said Abrams. “We all must be diligent in the search for a solution to the mosquito problem that affects humans and animals alike.”

The Service is seeking public comment on the proposal to list the ‘i’iwi as a threatened species, as well as on the draft ‘i’iwi species status report. The comment period will open with the publication of the proposed rule and will remain open for 60 days. The Service will consider comments from all interested parties received by November 21, 2016. Comments can be sent by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments under Docket Number FWS-R1-ES-2016-0057.
  • Via U.S. mail or hand delivery to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS–R1–ES–2016–0057, Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS; BPHC; 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

Copies of the proposed rule and associated draft ‘i’iwi species status report may be downloaded from the Service’s website at http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/. 


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