Hemignathus munroi
Male Akiapolaau

The ‘akiapōlā‘au is a stocky Hawaiian honeycreeper endemic to the island of Hawai‘i and most famous for their specialized bills, which have a long, decurved upper mandible and a short woodpecker-like lower mandible. Adult males have a bright yellow head and underparts, yellow-green back and wings, and a small, black mask. Adult females are olive above with grayish-yellow to yellow underparts. Males are larger than females and have longer bills.

‘Akiapōlā‘au are mainly insect eaters, with insect larva, spiders, and beetle larva being the most important prey items; rarely takes nectar but takes sap from holes it excavates in ‘ōhi‘a trees. They creep along lichen covered and dead branches of koa, kōlea, māmane, and naio trees tapping branches with their lower mandible to locate prey. Once a food item is located, lower mandible is used similar to that of a woodpecker bill to chisel open a hole. The upper mandible is then used to fish out the prey item.


Breeding has been documented year-round, although most activity occurs from February to July. The species’ open cup nest is most often placed in ‘ōhi‘a trees. Clutch size is usually one, rarely two, and females perform all incubation and brooding. Males provide females and nestlings with the majority of food. Only one fledgling is produced per year, and a long period of parental dependency, usually four to five months, is typical.

‘Akiapōlā‘au occur in mesic and wet montane forests dominated by koa and ‘ōhi‘a. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refugesupports a significant portion of the ‘akiapōlā‘au population.

‘Akiapōlā‘au are likely susceptible to the same factors that threaten other native Hawaiian forest birds, including: loss and degradation of habitat, predation by introduced mammals, and disease. 

Facts About ‘Akiapōlā‘au

To date, conservation actions specific to ‘akiapōlā‘au have been restricted to annual population surveys of the Hakalau, ‘Ōla‘a/Kīlauea, Kona, and Mauna Kea populations. However, ‘akiapōlā‘au likely have benefited from management activities designed to conserve other endangered forest birds in the Kapāpala Forest Reserve, Hakalau Forest.