WatchList Species Account for Hawaii Creeper |
Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species
|Photo: Jack Jeffrey
Characteristically creeping along the larger branches and trunks of native ‘ohi’a and koa trees, picking at and probing under loose bark and in clumps of moss and lichens in search of arthropods, the Hawaii Creeper exists in three disjunct populations on the windward side of the Island of Hawaii, including within Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, the site which records the highest densities.
Population estimates made in the 1970s set its population at approximately 12,500 individuals and since then, local census data indicates stable numbers in at least some of the protected higher-elevation forest, and declines or extirpations in the few lower-elevation sites where the bird had been found. Since the 1970s, one population has disappeared while two others have declined.
This bird occurs from 2,296 to 6,889 feet in elevation, but the greatest populations are found above 4,900 feet in montane wet and mesic forests. Highest densities occur in old-growth forests with emergent ‘ohi’a and koa in the canopy. In the post-breeding season this creeper is often found in mixed flocks.
The Hawaii Creeper may be negatively impacted by competition for arthropods with the introduced Japanese White-eye and from introduced yellow jackets. Predators include Hawaiian Hawk, Short-eared Owl, and the introduced Barn Owl. The bird is also threatened by habitat destruction and degradation, introduced mammalian predators, and mosquitoes, which are vectors of avian diseases.
Conservation measures for the bird include the establishment of the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge in 1985, primarily to protect and manage habitat for native birds. Much of this refuge has been fenced, and feral pigs are being removed from the refuge. Native plants, including koa, are being planted, and surveys of native birds are conducted annually.
Nest success rates for this bird are alarmingly low, and research is needed to document the causes and to guide further management actions. The Hawaii Creeper is federally listed as endangered and classified as endangered by BirdLife International.