WatchList Species Account for Nukupu’u (Hemignathus lucidus)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Abert's Towhee

© H. Douglas Pratt, Birds of Hawaii. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

Very similar to the ‘Akiapola’au and once considered conspecific with it, the Nukupu’u formerly existed on Kauaʻi , Maui and Oahu, but disappeared from the latter in the 19th Century. It favored wet and mesic upland native forest with koa and ‘ohi’a; occupying the woodpecker niche as does the ‘Akiapola’au, its diet was mainly invertebrates, which it extracted from living or dead branches.


The last confirmed records for the bird were in 1995-96 on Maui, with unconfirmed sightings on Kauai up to 1996; however, despite extensive efforts of survey teams on both islands since then, no birds have been recorded. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that it is either extinct or functionally extinct.


Habitat degradation and destruction, disease carried by introduced mosquitoes, and predation all presumably played a role in its disappearance; hurricane Iniki on Kauaʻi in 1992 drastically reduced populations of native birds in the uplands and may have been disastrous for the Nukupu’u. On Maui, habitat restoration and predator control programs were initiated too late to save the Nukupu’u.