‘Apapane

Himatione sanguinea

'Apapane

Himatione sanguinea

The ‘Apapane is a widespread nectarivorous honeycreeper. They are excellent flyers and often range widely in search of nectar sources in native and non-native forest habitat utilizing native plants like ‘ōhi‘a as well as non-native species like black wattle.  ‘Apapane are abundant but are restricted to forested habitats and are dependent on nectar sources.  Adults are bright crimson with dark wings and tail and prominent white undertail coverts. The head is usually brighter than the rest of the plumage. Their brush-tipped tongues may protrude, making their bill tips look white. Juveniles are yellow-brown with white undertail coverts and gained the red plumage in the first two years. Like any good pollinator, their faces are often covered in pollen grains giving it a yellowish cast. The now-extinct close cousin, the Laysan Honeycreeper (Himatione fraithii), was very similar in appearance showing more orange plumage overall and dingy undertail feathers. 

Cultural Significance

Much like those of the ‘I‘iwi bird, ‘Apapane feathers were incorporated into various feather work crafts to adorn Hawaiian ali‘i. Ancient Hawaiians also chanted about and incorporated ‘Apapane in to their stories.

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'Apapane Abundance= Malaria Resistance?

Increased detections of Apapane in low-elevation forests are a hopeful sign that this species might be developing a resistance to mosquito-borne diseases. Take a look at our Avian Diseases page.

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Listen to 'Apapane

‘Apapane have incredibly varied calls and songs, including squeaks, whistles, rasping notes, clicking sounds, and melodic trills. Some songs are pleasant and rather canary-like; others are harsh and mechanical sounding.

Listen to ‘Apapane

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Habitat and Behavior

‘Apapane are found around flowering trees, particularly ʻōhiʻa lehua. They often perch conspicuously on the outer clusters of flowers to feed on nectar with brush-tipped tongues and assist with ohia pollination. The tail is characteristically cocked up. Small flocks of ‘Apapane frequently fly high over forested ridges.

Past and Present

‘Apapane are the most abundant native forest bird in the Hawaiian Islands. They are found on all main islands in mountain forests above 600 m. They are abundant on Kaua’i, Maui, and Hawai’i; locally common on O’ahu, scarce on Moloka’i, and likely extinct on Lana’i. The closely-related Laysan Honeycreeper (Himatione fraithii) was last seen in 1923.

Conservation Efforts

The ‘Apapane population in currently considered stable. However, it is vulnerable to the same threats as other Hawaiian honeycreepers. Fortunately, recent increased detections of Apapane in low-elevation forests suggest that this species may be developing a resistance to avian malaria.

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