WatchList Species Account for Kaua'i 'Amakihi
(Hemignatus kauaiensis)


Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species

 

Kauai Amakihi by Bill Hubick

Photo: Bill Hubick

The Kaua'i Amakihi is one of a group of four closely related, island-specific Hawaiian honeycreepers, which until 1995 were considered subspecies of the Common 'Amakihi. These species are among the least specialized and most adaptable of native Hawaiian forest birds. They are omnivorous, feeding on arthropods, fruit, and nectar, including the nectar of the introduced banana poka. It creeps along branches and trunks, also feeds among leaves and flowers. The Kaua'i 'Amakihi is a bark specialist, flaking off bark and prying with its bill to find insects in crevices.

 

The Kaua'i 'Amakihi is found only on the island of Kaua'i, where it was originally common in native forests which covered the entire island. Unusual among native Hawaiian passerines, its numbers are actually thought to be increasing. Population estimates from 1968-73 put the population at 10,743, but subsequent estimates put the number at up to 20,000, with the population continuing to grow. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki devastated forests throughout the island, and all populations of the native birds appear to have been drastically reduced, but the Kaua’i 'Amakihi population seems to have recovered. Occurring above 600 m, it is common in the Alakai Wilderness Preserve, Koke'e State Park, and in the Makaleha Mountains. It is found mostly in forests dominated by ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha), often with a strong mix of koa (Acacia koa), where it prefers low-stature trees. Nests are located solely in nonblooming ohi'a trees, mostly in the upper canopy.

 

As with other native Hawaiian birds, clearing of habitat, especially of lowland forests where it originally occurred had significant negative impacts. Current threats include the spread of avian malaria and pox by introduced mosquitoes, depredation from feral mammal populations, and habitat degradation from invasive plants facilitated by the activities of feral pigs.

 

Efforts in Alakai Wilderness Preserve and Kokee State Park to control feral animals and other invasive species will benefit the Kaua'i 'Amakihi and all native forest birds. More research into the species biology and factors regulating its populations would be helpful in order to pinpoint any unforeseen threats that could be moderated. Clearly protection of more forested habitat and restoration of degraded habitat would benefit the species.