Bird of the Week, August 19, 2011

I'iwi by Jack Jeffery


The red and black ‘Iʻiwi was once one of the most common endemic forest birds in Hawaiʻi, but this spectacular honeycreeper has disappeared from most of its former range.  Their long, decurved (downward-curving) bills are specialized for sipping nectar from tubular flowers; they also feed on moths, spiders, and other insects.


As is the case with other Hawaiian forest birds, ‘Iʻiwis have declined because of habitat loss, avian disease, and the introduction of alien plants and animals. The ʻIʻiwi is extremely susceptible to avian malaria and avian pox, both transmitted by non-native mosquitoes.The 'I'iwi follows the flowering of nectar-producing plants, and so is often attracted into low elevation areas where mosquitoes are more prevalent. Research has shown that 90% of ʻIʻiwis bitten by a single malaria-infected mosquito will perish from the disease.


The ‘Iʻiwi has benefited from efforts to restore native forest and control the spread of alien plant and animal species.  


ABC is working with the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife and other partners on forest restoration projects on Mauna Kea on the Big Island, and on leeward east Maui that will ultimately improve habitat conditions for 'I'iwi and other threatened forest birds such as Palila and Maui Parrotbill.


Read more about ABC’s efforts to save the ‘Iʻiwi and other native Hawaiian birds!