The Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill, Pseudonestor xanthophrys) is the most critically endangered forest bird on Maui. In order to safeguard the population from disastrous introductions or developments, establishing a second population on the leeward or southeast side of Haleakalā Volcano is considered critical for the species' recovery. Currently, the population is only found on one side of the mountain, leaving the single population vulnerable.
The leeward side of east Maui is drier and has fewer severe storms. Kiwikiu were once found in this area prior to forest destruction by feral ungulates. The forest was dominated by koa (Acacia koa), a tree that Kiwikiu was historically thought to prefer. Although much of the area has been severely degraded by non-native ungulates for well over 120 years, there are large gulches with remnant forest remaining and restoration efforts will provide suitable habitat for Kiwikiu again in the future (see Restoration).
Before a reintroduction can be designed or implemented, as much information about the biology and status of the species of concern is needed. From 2006-2014, the focus of MFBRP was on Kiwikiu productivity and survival studies in order to answer some of these questions. To collect data for these studies, each breeding season (February-June) MFBRP searched for Kiwikiu at our research sites. Kiwikiu are first color-banded (see Avian Research) which allows us to follow and identify individuals for the duration of their lifetime. Monitoring a color-banded population can provide data on density, home range size, breeding behaviors, survival, productivity, recruitment, and dispersal.
Our research was conducted mainly in the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve, in the core of the Kiwikiu’s range (see Field Sites). After six seasons in Hanawi, we had adequate data on the demographics of that portion of the Kiwikiu population (see Determining productivity of Maui Parrotbills). In 2012, we moved our focus to the Kiwikiu population in The Nature Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve on the western edge of the species’ current range. Our demographic research here have allowed us to compare data on survival, productivity, and home range size (see Home range sizes of two Hawaiian honeycreepers) between these two areas of the Kiwikiu population range and help determine what management interventions will best assist in the recovery efforts for the species as a whole.
See US Fish and Wildlife Service Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds for a more in depth Maui Parrotbill recovery plan (part II, page 2-77).
A presentation about this project: Mounce HL, Warren CC, Farmer C, Vetter JP, Berthold LK, Landon P, Fretz S. 2015. Planning for Kiwikiu reintroduction: Habitat restoration in Nakula Natural Area Reserve, Maui. Presentation. Hawai'i Conservation Conference, Hilo, HI. View presentation here.
Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund documentary segment that features Kiwikiu and Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project.