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.