WatchList Species Account for ‘Akohekohe (Palmeria dolei)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species

 

‘Akohekohe (Palmeria dolei)
Photo: Jack Jeffrey

Known in English as the Crested Honeycreeper, the ‘Akohekohe is a brightly colored and boisterous bird, whose raspy, gutteral calls make it easy to locate. It is highly aggressive and territorial, and save for breeding is usually solitary.

 

Its habitat is the misty, high-elevation rainforest of ‘ohi’a and koa on the northeastern slope of Haleakala Volcano on Maui, though it was formerly found also elsewhere on Maui and on Moloka’i; its current range is estimated to be only 5% of its original range. Foraging in the upper and mid-levels of forest canopy, it feeds mostly on nectar of the ohi’a but also gleans insects from leaf surfaces, leaf and flower buds, and twigs. Its present habitat is remote and the bird was infrequently reported during the early 1900s and not at all in the 1920s and 1930s.The last population estimates, in the 1970s, put its total number at around 3,800 individuals.

 

Threats to the bird all result from human activity, primarily deforestation and the introduction of exotic species, including degradation of remaining native forests by feral ungulates. Introduced Barn Owl, cats, rats, and possibly mongoose prey on adults and juveniles.

 

As elsewhere in the Hawaiian islands, disease has virtually eliminated this native species from elevations below 4,921 feet; 99% of its population is found above this, up to 6,889 feet. Under present conditions it cannot expand its present distribution. Management includes preserving and restoring native forest, particularly above 4,900 feet, and removal of feral ungulates such as pigs; fence enclosures have also been set up to keep feral ungulates out.

 

Human access has been limited to some of the reserves to lessen impact and to prevent importation of non-native weeds.