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A grouping of three subspecies of Hawaiian honeycreepers, each endemic to a single island (Kauai, Oahu, and Maui) and probably extinct. All possess a most unusual long, slender, curving bill. The subspecies may eventually be elevated into separate species. The few reports from the twentieth century are mostly unsubstantiated or unreliable.
Bright yellow birds with black lores are immediately recognized by its sharply curving upper mandible. In appearance, very similar to the 'Akiapola'au (H. munroi) which is found only on the island of Hawaii. On Kauai, the likely extinct Akialoa (H. obscurus) has a much longer curving bill in which upper and lower portions are nearly equal length. In behavior is a bark gleaner. Call is a loud kee-wit.
Formerly found on the islands of Kauai, Oahu, and Maui (a specimen bearing the label "Hawaii" has been found through genetic evidence to be from Oahu). The Kauai population was recorded in the late 1800s from a small area of wet montane forest on the southwest side of Kauai. Sightings from 1960-1996 in the Alakai Wilderness Preserve have been unsubstantiated and the population is thought to be extirpated. The Oahu population is known only from specimens collected from 1837-1838 in an area of wet montane forests around Nu'uanu Valley; already considered extinct by naturalists in the late 1800s. The Maui population was known from 1892 to 1896 from a very small area of wet montane forest on the north slope of Haleakala Volcano. A series of reported observations from 1967 to 1997 from the slopes of Haleakala have been unconfirmed (though at least one involved several qualified observers) and four years of recent survey work have not detected any individuals of this species.
A bark "creeper" known to have hunted for arthropod prey over all bark surfaces of trees and branches. Only one dubious second-hand observation recorded on the Maui Nukupu'u with only scarce records for the other two populations. Described as an active bird that hammered on the surface of trunks or branches, inserting its bill to hook out insects, spiders, and grubs. No information on life history or breeding.
No information, but likely similar as those for other native Hawaiian land birds: habitat alteration, disease, and introduced species being probable threats.
Federally listed as Endangered in 1967, although extensive and repeated surveys have failed to relocate this species. Until individuals are located recovery efforts are moot. Meanwhile, restoration and preservation efforts in historically used habitats keep open the possibility that the species could persist. The discovery of an extant population would necessitate the launching of a captive propagation program like those carried out for the Oma'o and Puaiohi. Additional efforts would include determining and protecting key habitats, controlling feral animals and noxious weeds, and limiting human disturbance. Continued protection for the Alakai Wilderness Preserve (established in 1964) and an additional 7,890 hectares identified as critical habitat would be important short-term safeguards to protect the possibility that undetected Nukupu'u remain and have habitat to use.
What Can You Do?
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/
Although the Endangered Species Act may have been too late to prevent the extinction of the Nukupu'u, it does protect and provide resources for many species. Audubon continues to work to ensure that this vital legislation is being used to protect our publicly-owned wildlife resources. Check out http://www.audubon.org/campaign/ to learn of the latest news about the Endangered Species Act and how you can help. To learn more about other species protected under this legislation, visit: http://endangered.fws.gov/
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, Maui, and Oahu by state and federal agencies and conservation organizations.
BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Editions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge, UK.
BirdLife International (2006) Species factsheet: Hemignathus lucidus, Nukupu'u http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=8911&m=0
Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in Jeopardy. Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Pratt, H. D. et. al. 1987. A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton UP, Princeton, New Jersey.
Pratt, T. K. et. al. 2001. 'Akiapola'au (Hemignathus munroi), Nukupu'u (Hemignathus lucidus). In The Birds of North America, No. 600 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologist's Union, Washington, D.C.