WatchList Species Account for ‘Akepa (Loxops coccineus)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species

 

Akepa
Photo: Jack Jeffrey

Like the ‘Akeke’e, its congeneric on Kaua’i, the ‘Akepa has a laterally asymmetrical bill, which it uses to pry open leaf and flower buds in search of arthropods. It was once common and widespread on O’ahu, Maui, and the island of Hawaii. Its core populations on the island of Hawaii seem to be stable, but the bird is in critical danger of extinction on Maui, if not already extinct there. It is already extinct on O’ahu.

 

On Hawaii, the 'Akepa has a patchy distribution above 3,600 feet in wet and mesic forest on the windward side of the island, with two small relict and declining populations on the northern slope of Hualalai Volcano and on the western slope of Mauna Loa. Like the ‘Akeke’e, it forages primarily on native ‘ohi’a and koa trees; it also locates its nest cavities in these trees.

 

The 'Akepa is gregarious after breeding and can occur in flocks of more than 40 individuals.

 

Besides disease, for which introduced birds act as reservoirs and introduced mosquitoes as vectors, other threats include introduced yellowjackets, which compete with the ‘Akepa for its arthropod prey, habitat destruction, which has eliminated about 90% of the forest habitat in which the bird is found, and rats, and pigs, goats, and mouflon, all of which affect the bird either directly or through habitat degradation.

 

Cattle ranching and logging are ongoing threats due to destruction of large, old trees needed for nesting, and prevention of forest regeneration due to grazing. Current management on the island of Hawaii includes hunting to eliminate feral pigs and poisoning to control rats. Preventing further introduction of non-native plants and avoidance of the introduction of the brown tree snake are also high priorities in preserving the species.