Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands
Maui Parrotbill / Psuedonestor xanthophrys / Kiwikiu
||The Maui parrotbill measures 5 1/2 inches long, and is predominantly olive-green above and yellow below. It has a distinctive yellow stripe above the eye. The parrotbill has a large parrot-like bill and a very short tail. Female parrotbills are duller in color and have a smaller bill.
|Kiwikiu - Photo credit Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project
Habitat & Behavior:
As the name suggests, the Maui parrotbill is presently restricted to high elevation ‘ōhi‘a forests of East Maui, although formerly it was also common in koa forest and dryland forest at low elevations on Maui. Fossil records show that they once also lived on Moloka‘i.
They have been seen in rainforests from 4,300 to 6,800 feet, usually in subcanopy trees and understory plants. Although its range extends over eight miles, it is centered in an area of less than 5,000 acres.
The parrotbill feeds on insect larvae by splitting dry branches with its powerful bill. Its breeding biology is not known at this time. The parrotbill has three different calls: a loud rising whistle, “kee-wit”, a “chick”, and a descending broken note, “tchew.”
Past & Present:
Historically, the Maui parrotbill has been rare, and today, only 500 of them survive. Early island settlers cleared much of the habitat of the parrotbill and many other native birds for farming, animal grazing, and timber. The Europeans settlers brought pigs and disease-transmitting mosquitoes to Maui, further hindering the parrotbill’s survival. The forest habitat they depend on is easily damaged by feral pigs.
Private land owners like The Nature Conservancy and government agencies such as the State of Hawai‘i's Department of Land and Natural Resources and the National Park Service are committed to providing protected habitat for native species on Maui. Maui parrotbill habitat today is found in the Hanawī Natural Area Reserve, Haleakalā National Park, and Waikamoi Preserve.
The Maui parrotbill was listed as an endangered species in 1967 under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds was published in 2006, recommending active land management and fencing to keep feral animals out of the dwindling forest bird habitat.