In order to safeguard the population from disastrous introductions or developments, establishing a second Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill, Pseudonestor xanthophrys) population on the leeward or southeast side of Haleakala Volcano is considered critical for the species' recovery.
This side of east Maui is drier, has less severe storms, and less occurrence of malaria carrying mosquitoes than the wet, windward slopes. Kiwikiu were once found in this area prior to forest destruction by feral ungulates. The forest was predominately koa (Acacia koa), a tree that Kiwikiu was historically noted 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).
The Kiwikiu is the most critically endangered forest bird on Maui. Before a reintroduction can be designed or implemented, as much information about the biology and status of the species of concern is needed.
Since 2006, the focus of MFBRP has been Kiwikiu productivity and survival studies in order to answer some of these questions. Our research has been conducted mainly in the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve, which is the core of the Kiwikiu’s range. 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). Therefore, since 2012, we moved our focus to The Nature Conservancy’s Waikamoi Preserve on the western edge of the current Kiwikiu population range. Our demographic research here will allow us to compare data on survival, productivity, and home range size 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.
During the core of each breeding season, February to June, MFBRP searches for Kiwikiu at our research sites. Kiwikiu are first color-banded (see Techniques) 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.
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).
Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund documentary segment that features Kiwikiu and Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project.