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11/1/20

'Akikiki

The ‘Akikiki, also called Oreomystis bairdi or the Kaua’i Creeper, is a type of small honeycreeper native to Hawaii. The ‘Akikiki can be found in the high elevation rainforests of Kaua’i, in Koke’e State park and Alaka’i Wilderness Preserve, at 1140 meters and above. This bird is critically endangered and has about 610 individuals left. The ‘Akikiki usually travels in pairs or family groups as it forages through tree trunks and branches. They eat invertebrates they find in bark. The ‘Akikiki is very agile and jumps quickly around tree branches. This little bird is not well-known, even in Hawaii, and has not been receiving the attention or the resources it needs to survive as it’s population decreases. Although the ‘Akikiki is in the Endangered Species Act and listed on the IUCN red list, it only receives a small amount of federal and state funds for conservation.

The main reason the ‘Akikiki is endangered is mosquito-borne diseases, climate change, deforestation and invasive species. An extreme amount of habitat has been lost to deforestation, and invasive species destruction of natural habitat also is a problem. All this shrinks the amount of habitat the ‘Akikiki can survive in. Another major problem facing the ‘Akikiki is diseases like avian malaria and avian pox, which are spread by mosquitoes and have ravaged the ‘Akikiki population. Climate change further inflames the issue by raising temperatures and thus the elevation mosquitoes can live in. When average temperatures are 55-63 F, malaria transmission is somewhat controlled, and below 55 F birds cannot get malaria. Currently, all the areas where the ‘Akikiki lives are warm enough for a small amount of malaria transmission. However a temperature increase of just 4 F, predicted by some, would make the elevation at which the average temperature is more than 63 F rise about 1000 feet. This would shrink the ‘Akikiki’s territory further - and some predict a 85% decrease of birds in the area that is currently cool enough to control transmission.

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Image by Jack Jeffery

The problems facing the forests of Kaua’i does not only affect the ‘Akikiki, but also the other animals in the forest, such as the ‘Akeke’e, another endangered honeycreeper. Climate change is a big issue that affects everyone, even in indirect ways, so we need to figure out a solution to help this rare, little known bird.

The ‘Akikiki is now covered under the Endangered Species act because Hawaiian bird expert Dr. Eric VanderWerf petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Now they receive federal funding to help them come back. What you can do is tell people about this amazing bird and how it’s population is declining because of climate change and avian malaria. You can also donate to organizations like the American Bird Conservancy who are trying to help this bird.

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Image by the Kaua'i Forest Bird Recovery Project

Image by the Kaua'i Forest Bird Recovery Project

Image by Robby Kohley

Images by the Kaua'i Forest Bird Recovery Project

Works Cited

Akikiki. (2019, January 17). Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://abcbirds.org/bird/akikiki/

Merry, M. (n.d.). Akikiki. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.endangered.org/animal/akikiki/

Glenn, C. R. 2006. "Earth's Endangered Creatures - Akikiki Facts" (Online). Accessed 9/27/2020 at http://earthsendangered.com/profile.asp?sp=3583&ID=7.

“‘Akikiki”. The Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project. Accessed 10/30/20. https://kauaiforestbirds.org/akikiki/#next