Poouli

Melamprosops phaesoma

The last wild Poouli was recorded in 2004. The Poouli has a brown back and a buff belly washed with brown. Its black mask is offset by a white throat. It has a short black bill and long pale legs. This forest bird is about 5.5 inches from beak to tail.

Habitat & Behavior

This rare forest bird is part of the "honeycreeper" family and spends most of its time foraging in native forests. Traveling in small family groups, Poouli once gleaned leaves and bark in the subcanopy and understory of forests searching for snails, spiders, and insects. The Poouli lived at elevations above 5,000 feet. The Poouli breeds from February to June, and usually lays one or two eggs. This bird's main calls are a repetitive 'chick' and a whistled 'wh-whit'.

Past & Present

This bird was first discovered in 1973 by University of Hawaii students in the northeastern (wet) slope of Haleakala, Maui. Nine individuals were found. Based on the 1980 Hawaiian Forest Bird Survey scientists estimated that as many as 200 Poouli inhabited East Maui. Sub-fossil bones discovered in 1982 suggest that Poouli once lived on southwestern (dry) slopes of Haleakala. By 2004 only three Poouli were known to exist, all in the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve on Maui. Demographic collapse due to small population size was the primary threat to their survival.

Conservation Efforts

The Poouli was listed as an endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on September 25, 1974. Government agencies and environmental groups had been working for years to restore the habitat of the Poouli and other native species. In 2004, scientists decided to bring the three remaining birds into captivity hoping to establish a breeding population and eventually releasing captive reared Poouli back into their native habitat. Unfortunately, the effort did not succeed and the Poouli is thought to be extinct.

For more information about the recovery efforts of the Po'ouli, go to our Po'ouli Recovery Page.

We can learn from the lesson of the Poouli by intervening to recover our other endangered forest bird species before they get to such critically low numbers.
 
For more reading, check out The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird, the Discovery and Death of the Poouli by Alvin Powell.