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An energetic member of the Hawaiian honeycreeper family (Drepanididae) that forages in a behavior reminiscent of nuthatches. Endemic to the island of Kauai and declining dramatically in numbers, following a pattern established by other species that are now extinct or on the verge of extinction.
Readily recognized by it bicolored plumage (dark above, light below) lacking the yellows and greens that characterize other bark-creeping birds. Pink bill is also diagnostic. Call is a thin "sweet".
Found only in wet montane forests in central Kauai where it now occupies less than 10% of its former range. This contraction in range is troubling because it suggests a pattern of population decline and retreat that has been noted in other Kauai birds that are now extinct or nearly so. While the 1981 Hawaiian Forest Bird Survey found the bird to be common in the most remote parts of its range, the 2000 Kauai Forest Bird Survey verified that the species has drastically declined since 1970 with a 64% decline in its core Alaka'i Swamp population. The recent survey found disturbingly few individuals and low densities throughout the species' range.
Forages for insects, larvae, and spiders among the twigs and branches of ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) and koa (Acacia koa) trees. Possesses a tongue that is specially designed for extracting insects from crevices in bark, unlike the tubular nectar-drinking tongue of other members of the Hawaiian honeycreeper family. The Akikiki builds a simple open-cup nest between March and May, perhaps only in ohi'a trees.
One of the least understood of all surviving birds on the Hawaiian Islands but likely faces the same threats confronting other native birds: habitat loss and alteration, introduction of alien species, mosquito-borne diseases, and impacts from natural events such as hurricanes.
While this species' core population resides in the protected Alaka'i Swamp region, it has been suggested that this site may not be ideal habitat but is utilized because optimum lowland habitat has been either lost or altered. To this end one of the key conservation strategies may be reestablishment of low elevation native forests. Meanwhile, the most important effort would be to fence portions of the Alaka'i Swamp and begin removal of feral ungulates and other introduced mammals. Lack of information on this species' life history and population dynamics is a serious impediment to recovery efforts, and studies are in great need. Like many other Hawaiian bird species that are in critical conservation need, funds are lacking to carry out the recommended actions that may save the species from extinction.
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 and reforest degraded habitat on Kauai by state and federal agencies and conservation organizations.
Support efforts to list the Akikiki as a federally Endangered species under the Endangered Species Act so that more funds may become available for its study and protection. 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/
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: Oreomystis bairdi, Akikiki http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=8913&m=0
Foster, J. T. et. al. 2000. Akikiki (Oreomystis bairdi). In The Birds of North America, No. 552 (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 theTropical Pacific. Princeton UP, Princeton, New Jersey.