The crest of an Akohekohe aids plants in pollination.
An Akohekohe drinks nectar from an ohia blossom.
Color banded second-year Akohekohe (Crested Honeycreeper) captured in Hanawi NAR, Maui
The rare and ornate 'Akohekohe, or Crested Honeycreeper, is closely related to the much more common 'Apapane. It is one of the largest honeycreepers, measuring over 7 inches, and also one of the most distinctive. Akohekohe are uniformly dark with silver flecks on face and upper breast, white tipped tails and wingtips, and have bright orange napes and eye patches. The white crest on their foreheads is the source of their English name.
Habitat & Behavior
Mostly nectarivorous, 'Akohekohe forage almost exclusively on ʻōhiʻa lehua blossoms in the forest canopy. Occasionally they can be seen picking insects and other arthropods from branches. They also sometimes visit the flowers and fruits of other native plants. The most common call is an upslurred two-note whistle. Other calls are similar in tone and quality but are highly variable in style. These include the low, guttural, "peter-peter gluk gluk" and "AH-kohay-kohay" from which the bird probably gets its Hawaiian name.
Past & Present
Akohekohe were once found on much of Maui and Moloka'i but are now restricted to an area of about 50 square kilometers on Haleakalā volcano. Residing above 5,000 ft in elevation, about 3700 individuals are estimated to remain.
'Akohekohe are listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The already shrinking range of the Akohekohe continues to be threatened by invasive and introduced plants and animals, and by upslope movement of avian malaria in response to climate change. It is important to understand how 'Akohekohe are affected by these threats and to recover additional populations.
To learn more about a research project on 'Akohekohe, go here.