The iiwi is a large, nectivorous honeycreeper (~6 in in length). They are brilliant scarlet with black wings and tail. Their bill is long, deeply decurved, and peach-colored. Immature are dull yellow with black spots. Bills are dusky brown at first and becomes brightly colored with age.
Habitat & Behavior
A nectar-feeder often found in flowering ohia-lehua, mamane, and some introduced plants such as banana poka. Slow and deliberate in movements, keeps to the interior of leafy branches, rarely in the open. Wings produce an audible flutter in flight.
Voice: An almost infinitely varied repertoire of creaks, whistles, gurgles, and reedy notes often joined into a halting song. Some random calls sound like a child playing with a rusty harmonica. A loud rusty-hinge call diagnostic. May give humanlike whistles, or imitate other native birds.
Distribution & Conservation
Endemic to the main Hawaiian islands in native forests above 600m. Common to abundant on Hawaii, Maui and Kauai, rare or almost none existent on Molokai, Oahu and Lanai.
Though the species remains common in some areas the Iiwi has seen the most drastic population decline of any Hawaiian honeycreeper in recent decades. With few exceptions the species is vanishing from nearly all parts of its former range. The USGS recently published an analysis of population trends for the species and found that <1% of individuals live outside of Hawaii island and east Maui. You can view their report here.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is currently conducting a thorough, 12-month review of the Iiwi (Vestiaria coccinea) to determine whether it will be listed and protected as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The review was initiated by a petition filed with USFWS in 2010 by the Center for Biological Diversity and Dr. Tony Povilitis. Iiwi are highly susceptible to avian malaria and are in a decline island wide. Creating more high elevation forest that is ungulate and mosquito free will help protect the Iiwi.
Learn about their cultural significance here.