Rare Hawaiian bird thought to be dead re-emerges by Maui volcano πŸ’₯😭😭πŸ’₯

Photo of Joshua Bote

The kiwikiu.

Courtesy of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

A stunning gold-and-green hued bird believed to be dead after a failed translocation experiment was found alive and well, a development that researchers are calling “an amazing sign.”

The five-to-six inch kiwikiu, or the Maui parrotbill, is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a critically endangered species. According to the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, the creature was once found all over Maui and the neighboring Moloka’i, but due to humans, feral pigs, wildcats and mosquito-induced disease, its numbers have dwindled down to fewer than 150.

The discovered bird was part of a failed translocation in October 2019, when five of the seven kiwikiu that were taken to Maui’s Nakula Natural Area Reserve were killed by an epidemic of avian malaria, transmitted by “non-native” mosquitoes, explained the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The two others were believed to be dead.

But this Wednesday, per the department, researcher Zach Pezzillo said he found the bird after hearing its distinct song at the reserve, located on the slopes of the Haleakalā volcano.


“I first heard what I thought might be a distant kiwikiu song,” he said in a statement. “It then sang about ten times across a gulch in some koa trees. It dropped down into some kolea trees where it spent the next twenty minutes calling and actively foraging through the berries, bark and leaves.”

Pezzillo successfully identified the male bird using a distinct banded mark on its leg.

“This bird has been exposed to disease, as the others were, and has somehow persevered,” said Dr. Hanna Moucne of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. “This is an amazing sign of hope for the species as we still may have time to save them. … This is a hopeful sign that a population of kiwikiu and other native forest birds could survive in restored landscapes in the future, especially without mosquitoes and disease.”

Rare Hawaiian bird thought to be dead re-emerges by Maui volcano

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