Endangered Species Spotlight: the ʻĀkohekohe

Endangered Species Spotlight: the ʻĀkohekohe
 via: mauiforestbirds.org
 via: mauiforestbirds.org
via: mauiforestbirds.org
Habitat: Maui, Hawaii
Status: Critically Endangered

This gorgeous bird is only found on the island of Maui in Hawaii. It’s called the ʻĀkohekohe (Palmeria dolei) and there are only around 3,800 individuals left in two separate populations on the island. TheʻĀkohekohe  is easily distinguished by the tuft of silvery-white feathers on its beak and its distinctive calls. The most widely recognized is a pair of “whee-o, whee-o”, being repeated over and over again. Then there’s the other well known song of a descending thrill which is done about five seconds apart. It songs also include a low chuckling sound, “tjook, tjook, chouroup” and a rarer song, “hur-hur-hur-gluk-gluk-gluk”.

Sadly, due to a number of factors, we might not be hearing this bird’s melodious calls for much longer. The first inhabitants, the Polynesians, deforested much of the islands to create farmland, which destroyed a large amount of the birds’ habitat. When the Europeans arrived the loss of land and this species had increased. The Europeans brought with them three species of rat which attacked the eggs, chicks, and adults of many bird species. They also ate the birds’ food sources. Another factor that lead to the decline of the ʻĀkohekohe was its unusual looks, which made it very desirable to collectors. Later, in the 1900s, mosquitoes were introduced to the Hawaiian Islands and inflicted deadly diseases on the birds, which lacked resistance to the pathogens. Finally, humans released of nonnative species which competed with the native birds for food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. After all that, the species has still hung on and is now under the protection of the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Hopefully with continuing conservation efforts we can save this wonderful little bird!