Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill)

Pseudonestor xanthophrys

Kiwikiu or Maui Parrotbill use their large parrot-like beaks to split branches and to extract insect larvae, their primary prey. Adult Parrotbill are 5 to 6 inches long, olive-green above and yellow below, and have short tails and distinctive yellow eye-stripes. Females tend to be duller in color and have smaller bills than males. Immatures are greyish-olive above and pale yellow below with whitish eye-stripes.

 

Listen to a Kiwikiu

 

Habitat & Behavior

Maui Parrotbill live as long as 16 years forming monogamous pairs that typically produce only a single offspring every year or two. Immature birds remain with their parents for 5-17 months. Pairs defend home ranges as large as 8 hectares (~ 20 acres). The Maui Parrotbill is presently restricted to high elevation wet 'ohi'a forests on East Maui. They are typically found foraging on branches of native plants like ohia, akala, koa, olapa, pilo, and kanawao. They will also split open berries for insect larvae.

Past & Present

Formerly found in koa forest and at lower elevations on Maui and on Molokai, the species was historically rare. Now, only about 500 Parrotbill are estimated to exist. Their current range is extremely restricted - less than 5000 hectares (12,350 acres)- largely protected within the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve, Haleakala National Park, and Waikamoi Preserve.

Conservation Efforts

Representing a monotypic genus, Maui Parrotbill are listed as critically endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Factors attributed to the species' decline include habitat destruction by humans and feral pigs, predation from introduced predators such as feral cats and mongooses, and avian diseases caused by the introduction of the mosquito. Current conservation efforts include monitoring the distribution and abundance population, response to climate change and avian malaria, and establishing a second population on leeward Haleakala where malaria is less likely to occur.

For more information on our recovery efforts, see our Kiwikiu Recovery page.

Naming Ceremony

In 2010, the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee gave the Maui Parrotbill a new Hawaiian name, the Kiwikiu. Because of its extreme rarity, the original name of the parrotbill had been culturally lost. Kiwikiu is named for its curved sickle-shaped bill, its whistle, and the weather on the mountain from which it lives. Watch the Kiwikiu mele inoa (name chant) that was preformed by Samuel Gon III, Senior Scientist/Cultural Advisor for The Nature Conservancy Hawaii. The Maui Parrotbill received its name in a ceremony at The Nature Conservancy's Waikamoi Preserve September 2010: