Maui's Unique Avian History

The history of birds in Hawaii is one of tremendous radiation due to geographic isolation resulting in numerous species of birds found nowhere else on earth. Unfortunately, Hawaiian flora and fauna have suffered massive extinctions since humans and introduced mammals arrived.

Sadly, more forest birds have joined the extinction list fairly recently. These include the O'u (Psittirostra psittacea), Bishops O'o (Moho bishopi), and the Maui form of the Olomao (Myadestes sp.). The Maui Akepa (Loxops coccineus ochraceus), the Maui Nukupuu (Hemignathus lucidus affinus), and the Po'ouli (Melamprosops phaeosoma) have not been seen in recent years and are possibly extinct.

We focus our efforts on the most critically endangered of the surviving Maui honeycreepers, the Maui Parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys) and 'Akohekohe or Crested Honeycreeper (Palmeria dolei) These species and other forest birds such as the Alauahio or Maui Creeper (Paroreomyza montana) and I'iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) are declining on Maui for many reasons including: habitat loss, introduced predators and ungulates, and introduced diseases. Today, exotic diseases, such as avian malaria and avian pox, restrict forest birds to high elevations where low temperature prevents survival of vectors and disease organisms. We combine habitat management with ornithological research to understand reasons for declines and the ways in which we can help endangered forest bird species recover.