Bird of the Week, January 18, 2013,



The 'Akiapōlā'au (pronounced ah-kee-ah-POH-LAH-OW) is a member of the highly specialized Hawaiian honeycreeper family. This species is most notable for its mismatched-looking beak that has a long, downward-curving upper mandible, used for probing, and a shorter lower mandible, used as a drill as the bird creeps along tree trunks and branches, probing for arthropods under the bark. It also takes flower nectar and drinks sap from shallow wells it drills in live bark.


Threats include grazing and logging, that have degraded or destroyed much of its habitat; predation by introduced mammals; mosquito-borne avian diseases; and depletion of the birds’ prey by introduced insects. Global climate change could allow mosquitoes to move to higher elevations, further decreasing suitable habitat for the 'Akiapōlā'au and other native Hawaiian passerines.


ABC is involved in a significant conservation project that will benefit the 'Akiapōlā'au and other native birds on the Mauna Kea volcano, where the species disappeared when overgrazing by non-native mammals severely degraded the forest.  Mouflon sheep and goats will be removed following the completion of an ungulate-proof fence that will encircle the mountain, setting the stage for forest regeneration and restoration. Fencing and removal of cattle and pigs has also been successfully employed at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, a key stronghold of the 'Akiapōlā'au.



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Photo: Jack Jeffrey; Range Map, ABC