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Photo by Peter LaTourrette.
Smallest of the living native Hawaiian birds, this active, bright yellow bird is common in its now restricted range on the island of Kauai. Having survived two major hurricanes in the past 15 years, and seemingly faring well in the face of other perturbations that have negatively impacted other native birds, populations seem stable.
This species is recognized by its small size and bright yellow coloration, with finer points of distinction being the lack of blackish lores and the short, thin bill. Call is a characteristic 2-note tew-weet. Song is lively trills of doubled and tripled notes weesee-weesee-weesee.
Originally found throughout the island of Kauai but now mostly confined to forests above 600 meters (perhaps occurring down to 100 meters in isolated, rugged valleys). In the early 1980s the Hawaiian Forest Bird Survey estimated that the population occupied 15% of its former range. Now considered common in the Koke'e, Waimea, and Alaka'i regions, being found mostly in native forests.
First collected in the 1830s this species was not seen for another 50 years and was hardly known until intensive studies began in the late 1960s. The Anianiau is found in a variety of habitats ranging from dry slopes to high rainfall rainforest, and is even able to persist in disturbed and altered habitats though native forests support the highest densities. Forages among the flowers, foliage, and twigs of various native trees and shrubs, taking a variety of arthropods and nectar. All nests have been reported in ohi'a trees (Metrosideros polymorpha) and are built from February through late May.
It is thought that the main threats or limitations to current populations are diseases and availability of native forest habitat. Destruction and alteration of lowland habitats has resulted in a major contraction of range since the 1890s, while human development has created artificial breeding sites for disease-bearing mosquitoes. Development, particularly in the Koke'e region and introduction of alien species continues to degrade native habitats.
No special needs have been identified for the Anianiau at present, but their continued survival will likely depend on the preservation of large tracts of undisturbed native forest. Preservation of forest carries with it the corollary requisite of monitoring and managing for the spread of introduced plants and animals, which will degrade even the most pristine native habitats.
What Can You Do?
Support efforts to control feral animals and invasive plants and insects throughout the Hawaiian Islands. For more information visit: http://www.hear.org/
Support efforts to protect native forest habitat on Kauai by state and federal agencies and conservation organizations.
Join Hawaii Audubon Society. A chapter of National Audubon, the Hawaii Audubon Society works to protect and educate people about Hawaii's birds. For more information visit http://www.audubon.org/states/hi/
BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge, UK.
BirdLife International (2006) Species factsheet: Hemignathus parvus, Anianiau http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=8908&m=0
Lepson, J. K. 1997. Anianiua (Hemignathus parvus). In The Birds of North America, No. 312 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologist's Union, Washington, D.C.
Pratt, H. D. et. al. 1987. A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton UP, Princeton, New Jersey.