American Bird Conservancy's Hawai'i Program

Windward East Maui by George Wallace, May 2007

Windward East Maui by George Wallace, May 2007


The Challenge

Since human colonization, 71 bird species have become extinct on Hawai'i; 48 prior to the arrival of Europeans, and 23 since Captain James Cook's "discovery" of the islands in 1778. Of the 42 remaining endemic taxa, 33 (31 species and 2 sub-species) are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act. Ten of those species have not been observed in 40 years and their status is unknown, though they are likely extinct. Today, Hawai'i supports 157 regularly occuring bird species, only 91 of which (57%) are native. Hawai'i is the global epicenter for imminent extinctions.


The protection of the remaining native birds, including the diverse group of honeycreepers, is the highest bird conservation priority in the United States and a long-term commitment for American Bird Conservancy.


Most Hawaiian bird species are in decline due to habitat loss, predation by non-native predators, and habitat degradation due to introduced ungulates, exotic, invasive plants, introduced plant diseases, and introduced insects. Mosquitoes are among the most deadly of non-native species and are responsible for the spread of avian malaria and avian pox which have caused multiple avian extinctions.


ABC Conservation Framework

Hawai'i is the epicenter of global extinctions. Efforts to prevent the loss of more bird species comes under Safeguarding the Rarest within ABC's Conservation Framework
pyramid icon - rarest


Primary Birds Impacted

42 endemic species, of which 33 are listed under the Endangered Species Act: Palila, 'Akiapola'au, Maui Parrotbill, Nihoa Millerbird, Hawaiian Petrel, 'Akikiki, 'Akeke'e, Omao, Puaiohi, Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Stilt



Palila by Jack Jeffrey
   Palila by Jack Jeffrey

Hawai'i boasts a concentration of bird species found nowhere else, and ABC wants to ensure their survival. ABC’s Hawai'i Program is a multi-year conservation effort aimed at reversing the decline of native, endangered Hawaiian bird species by:


  • Increasing private and government funding for their conservation
  • Protecting, managing, or restoring critical bird habitat for species such as the Palila and Maui Parrotbill
  • Addressing major threats to bird populations such as the Nihoa Millerbird
  • Increasing public awareness and support for Hawaiian bird conservation



ABC Results

ABC Results Button The 2009 State of the Birds report, of which ABC was a co-author, triggered $2 million dollars in federal support for the birds of Hawai'i.
ABC Results Button In early March 2010, responding to an ABC petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed as endangered two rare Hawaiian birds, the 'Akikiki and 'Akeke'e, under the federal ESA. The decision also includes the listing of 46 additional animals and plants that inhabit the island of Kauai.
ABC Results Button In 2009, ABC worked with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to adopt the conservation of Hawaiian forest birds as one of the Foundations new “keystone initiatives,” triggering a significant, multi-year commitment to make a population-level difference for Hawaii’s most endangered birds.
ABC Results Button Following an ABC petition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the Millerbird and several Hawaiian Honeycreepers to protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This means that all native Hawaiian birds are now protected under federal law.
ABC Results Button ABC has dedicated entire issues of its “BirdWire” e-newsletter (40,000 subscribers) and Bird Conservation magazine (distribution of nearly 9,000) to the topic of Hawaiian birds. In addition to our members, we distributed the Hawaii issue of Bird Conservation to every member of Congress and widely to federal and state agency personnel in Washington, D.C., and Hawaii. We published several press releases on the Hawaiian bird conservation topic and have developed a new section of the ABC website dedicated to our Endangered Hawaiian Birds Program.


What Next?

What Next Button ABC and its partners have been hard at work to protect and restore critical habitat for the Palila and Maui Parrotbill, and to develop a state-of-the-art translocation project to save the Nihoa Millerbird by creating a second population on Laysan Island. More than 300 endangered plant and animal species will benefit from this work.
What Next Button ABC is partnering with the National Park Serviceon a predator fence project to protect the largest Hawaiian Petrel colony on the Big Island in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
What Next Button Increased Endangered Species Act funding is required for many Hawaiian bird species, which currently receive only a small fraction of their counterparts in the other 49 states.
What Next Button ABC has initiated legal action against a hotel chain and electric cooperative for their liability in the deaths of thousands of Newell’s Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrels on Hawai’i, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. ABC wants the lights that are luring the birds to their deaths to be turned off and other mitigations put in place to protect the birds.

Take Action
Hawaii Magazine CoverRead more about the birds of Hawai'i and ABC's efforts to save them in the special Hawai'i issue of BIrd Conservation Magazine