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 ohia-lehua blossoms in the forest canopy. Occasionally they can be seen picking insects and other arthropods from branches. When ohia blossoms are scarce, Akohekohe are sometimes seen visiting the flowers and fruits of other native plants. The most common call is an upslurred two-note whistle similar to a "wolf 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 Molokai, but are now restricted to an area of about 50 square kilometers on Haleakala volcano. Residing between 1500 and 2300 m in forests of the Waikamoi Preserve east to Kaupo Gap, about 3700 individuals are estimated to remain.
Akohekohe are listed as endangered by the U.S. 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.