‘I’iwi

Scarlet Honeycreeper, Drepanis coccinea

'I'iwi

Scarlet Honeycreeper, Drepanis coccinea

The ‘I’iwi is a large, nectarivorous honeycreeper about 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. Their bright colors and unique bill make them one of the most recognizable honeycreepers. ‘I’iwi are loud and raucous and, like ʻĀkohekohe, are often aggressive to other species near nectar sources. Their long decurved bill is thought to be adapted to feeding on long, tubular flowers like the endemic Hawaiian Lobelioids (Campanulaceae). However, they will drink nectar from a wide variety of plant species including some with very small flowers. 

Cultural Significance

The eye-popping crimson color of this unique honeycreeper made it an object of fascination for early Polynesians, whom used the ‘I’iwi feathers for cultural crafts.

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'I'iwi listed as Threatened under ESA, 2017 (USFWS)

Once one of the most common forest birds in the Hawaiian Islands, the ‘’I’iwi is now protected as a Threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

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Listen to 'I'iwi

Varied repertoire of creaks, whistles, gurgles, and reedy notes often joined into a halting song. A loud rusty-hinge call diagnostic. May give humanlike whistles, or imitate other native birds.

Listen to 'I'iwi

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Habitat and Behavior

Often found in flowering ʻōhiʻa lehua, māmane, and ‘ākala. ‘I’iwi rarely stop moving and call often as they forage. While feeding, they keeps to the interior of leafy branches, before bursting out to quickly fly to another tree. Wings produce an audible flutter in flight.

Past and Present

Endemic to the main Hawaiian islands in native forests above 4000 ft. Common to abundant on Hawai’i, Maui and Kaua’i, extremely rare or extinct on Moloka’i, Oʻahu, and Lana’i. This species has seen the most drastic population decline of any Hawaiian honeycreeper in recent decades. The species is vanishing from nearly all parts of its former range with a few hold-out healthy populations on Hawai’i and east Maui. On Maui, the once widespread ‘I’iwi is largely restricted to upper elevation native forests on windward east Maui and the non-native forests of Kula FR. Recent sightings around 2000-3000 ft may represent some range expansion.

Conservation Efforts

In 2017, the USFWS listed the ‘I’iwi as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 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 birds.

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