WatchList Species Account for Puaiohi (Myadestes palmeri)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Photo: Robby Kohley, San Diego Zoo

Estimated to number only 200 to 300 individuals, the Puaiohi is limited to the Alakai Swamp on the island of Kauai, where it is restricted to high-elevation ‘ohi’a forests. This cryptic and sedentary species favors stream banks in inaccessible ravines containing a rich understory; the destruction of understory by feral pigs has been implicated in the Puaiohi’s rarity. Because its habitat is so difficult to reach, the bird went unreported for 45 years after the initial years of its discovery.


Though subject to mosquito-borne avian diseases, some birds may be disease-resistant, although it is not known what proportion of the population this represents. Degradation of habitat through the spread of non-native plant species is a threat. The birds are subject to predation by Short-eared Owls and the introduced Barn Owl, in addition to introduced mammals, including cats and rats; to control rat predation during breeding, rat poison bait stations have been placed near known nests. The bird feeds on fleshy native fruits, arthropods, and snails. Competition for food by introduced mammals, birds and insects may also have a negative impact. There are ongoing efforts to remove feral pigs from the area.


A captive population has been established and several birds from it released into the wild; where captive-bred birds have bred with wild birds and also with other captive-bred birds. The reintroduction program seems to be succeeding. Two hurricanes since 1982 caused sharp declines, but the population seems to have recovered. The bird is listed as federally endangered and as critical by BirdLife International.