Species Accounts

All species accounts by Eliot Carter. Unless otherwise noted, the photographs are of birds in adult plumage. Conservation status per IUCN except the endemic subspecies are based on federal classification.

Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens wilsoni) on Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla)

Nēnē or Hawaiian Goose Branta sandvicensis

The Nēnē is the only surviving endemic goose in Hawai’i, although as many as four others once existed. It was probably always restricted to open, non-forested areas, and now inhabits a wide range of open grassy habitats. The diet is principally made up of plant material, especially grasses and berries. Although long restricted to Hawai’i Island, where it was once common but became nearly extinct, it has now been reintroduced to Maui and Kaua’i (where it occurred prehistorically) and is now quite common on all three islands. Juveniles are similar but differ most strikingly by having a duller head. Conservation status: Near Threatened.

Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens wilsoni) on Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla)

Koa’e Kea or White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus dorotheae

A widespread pan-tropical species, the White-tailed Tropicbird is one of only three species in the Phaethonidae, the tropicbird family. It breeds on coasts and valleys of all of the main Hawaiian Islands, as well as some off-shore islets, spending the remainder of the year over the open ocean. It breeds most often in hollows and ledges of sheer cliffs, but also occasionally in tree-hollows. Conservation status: Least Concern

Black-crowned Night Heron

‘Aku‘u or Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli

The ‘Aku‘u has the distinction of being the only land or fresh-water bird resident in the Hawaiian Islands that is not distinct even at the subspecies level. It occurs in marshes, rivers, ponds, and streams throughout the main islands, occasionally also foraging along protected areas of coast. It forages by wading into shallow water and then spearing passing fish and large invertebrates with its bill. The common name comes from the fact that it frequently forages during the night. However, it is also active throughout the day. Juveniles are quite different from adults, being mostly brown with white tips to the feathers. Conservation status: Least Concern

Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens wilsoni) on Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla)

‘Alae ‘Ula, Hawaiian Common Moorhen, or Hawaiian Common Gallinule Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis

An endemic subspecies of the nearly worldwide Common Moorhen, the Hawaiian form only differs very slightly. In the Hawaiian Islands, moorhens inhabit densely vegetated marshes where they are often inconspicuous. The diet is varied, including both plants and invertebrates. Formerly occurring on all islands, this species is now restricted to O’ahu and Kaua’i. The juvenile is mostly brownish. Conservation status: Endangered

Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens wilsoni) on Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla)

Ae‘o, Hawaiian Stilt, or Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus knudseni

This endangered endemic subspecies can be common on undeveloped marshes, but the overall population is greatly reduced, primarily due to habitat destruction. They are highly social and are often found in large groups. They give loud shrill calls frequently while feeding. They probe the mud and shallow water in search of various invertebrates. Although capable of doing so, they only rarely swim, preferring to wade instead. Conservation status: Endangered

Juvenile Kaua‘i ‘Elepaio (Chasiempis sclateri)

Kaua’i ‘Elepaio Chasiempis sclateri

The Kaua’i ‘Elepaio is a small flycatcher endemic to the island of Kaua’i, where it is probably the second most common native songbird. They are found mostly in the forest understory, where they actively forage for insects, both by gleaning from trunks, branches, and foliage, as well as darting out to catch them in the air. The long tail is often fanned and cocked upwards. They are not shy and are often very interested in humans, approaching with fanned tail and drooped wing, giving loud scolding calls. The adults are gray above, whitish below, with a rusty wash across the breast, but juveniles (shown) are mostly rufous in color. Two other species, the Hawai’i ‘Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis) and O’ahu ‘Elepaio (Chasiempis ibidis) replace this species on Hawai’i Island and O’ahu, respectively. The Hawai’i species is rather common in mountain forest and woodland, with three distinct populations some consider to be separate subspecies (sandwichensis, ridgwayi, bryani). The O’ahu species is local, uncommon, and considered endangered. Conservation status: Vulnerable

Maui ‘Alauahio

Maui ‘Alauahio Paroreomyza montana newtoni

This small songbird is endemic to the island of Maui. Although it is declining and classified as endangered, largely because of its restricted range, they are still common at high elevations on Haleakalā. They are found in wet to mesic montane forest and immediately adjacent scrub. They forage mostly in the forest undergrowth, especially in dense thickets where it is difficult to see. They feed mostly on insects and only rarely on nectar. The often-given call is a harsh ‘chip.’ This species is unusual in that young from previous broods help the adults in caring for the nestlings and fledglings. At least in part because of this, the immatures may take up to three years to gain full adult plumage and breed for the first time, which is also unusual among small passerines. The individual shown is an adult male. Females are similar but with olive instead of yellow underparts, while immatures are mostly olive-gray. A second subspecies, Paroreomyza montana montana, formerly occurred in the mountains of Lana’i but is now extinct, while a closely related species, the O’ahu ‘Alauahio (Paroreomyza maculata), formerly occurred in the mountains of O’ahu, but is now presumed extinct. A third species, the Kākāwahie (Paroreomyza flammea), formerly occurred on Molokaʻi where it is now extinct. It differed strikingly from the other two species in having a red male. Conservation status: Endangered

Maui ‘Alauahio

‘Akikiki Oreomystis bairdi

The ‘Akikiki is a small honeycreeper endemic to Kaua’i. It is extremely rare and critically endangered. They are found in wet high-montane rainforest, where they forage mostly at higher levels in the trees. They primarily feed on insects, but also very rarely on nectar. They forage by creeping along trunks and branches, picking and probing at bark. The juvenile (shown) has a pale face and a creamy-yellow wash to the underparts, while adults have dark gray faces with purer white underparts. Conservation status: Critically Endangered


‘Apapane (Himatione sanguinea) on Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla)

‘Apapane Himatione sanguinea

The ‘Apapane is the most common native passerine in terms of total population, but in certain locations it is outnumbered by other Hawaiian honeycreepers. They feed almost exclusively on nectar from open flowers, such as those of ʻōhiʻa lehua and māmane, but also very rarely glean insects from foliage. Often moving about in small flocks, they are unusual among small forest birds in that they often fly long distances high above the canopy. They are frequently displaced from flowers by the larger and more aggressive ‘I’iwi. They have an incredibly large range of vocalizations, many of which are loud and create characteristic sounds of the mountain forests. The juvenile is mostly chocolate brown, with the exception of the white lower underparts. Conservation status: Least Concern

‘I‘iwi (Drepanis coccinea) on Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla)

‘I’iwi Drepanis coccinea

The ‘I’iwi was formerly widespread throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but is now extinct on Lana’i, extremely rare on O’ahu and Moloka’i, and uncommon and very local on Kaua’i, although still common in the mountains of Maui and Hawai’i Island. They feed on nectar of open flowers such as māmane and tubular flowers such as those of native lobelias. They are aggressive and often displace Hawai’i ‘Amakihi or ‘Apapane from flowers. Although they are now generally the dominant nectarivore, they were formerly subordinate to other, now extinct, species. They are very vocal and, like the ‘Apapane, have a wide range of calls. Juveniles are mostly olivaceous brown, each feather tipped with black, but often appear blotchy or orange-tinged as they grow due to adult (red) feathers emerging among the dull ones. Conservation status: Vulnerable

Juvenile Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens wilsoni) on 'Ōhelo (Vaccinium reticulatum)

Hawai’i ‘Amakihi Chlorodepanis virens wilsoni

The subspecies wilsoni of Hawai’i ‘Amakihi is endemic to Maui, Moloka’i, and formerly Lana’i. It is perhaps the most adaptable honeycreeper, and is very common on Maui in a wide range of habitats from scrub to rainforest, but uncommon and local on Moloka’i. It is almost certainly becoming resistant to avian malaria and pox, and has recently established a small population in lowland rainforest just above sea level on the north shore of Maui. They feed to a large extent on both nectar and insects. They are also fond of pūkiawe berries, which stain the beak purplish. The call is a harsh and buzzy ‘zeer‘, and males also give a trilled song during the breeding season (late winter-early spring). The adult male (shown) differs from the female in being greener with a wash of yellow. Immatures are extensively grayish, while young juveniles are pale gray, washed lemon yellow below, with two distinct white bars on each wing. A second subspecies, Chlorodrepanis virens virens, is endemic to Hawai’i Island, where common and widespread at high and mid elevations. Conservation status: Least Concern

Juvenile Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens wilsoni) on 'Ōhelo (Vaccinium reticulatum)

O’ahu ‘Amakihi Chlorodepanis flava

This species is a close relative of the Hawai’i ‘Amakihi and has similar behavior. It is endemic to O’ahu, where it once declined but has now developed resistance to avian malaria and pox and has expanded its range into many previously-abandoned low-altitude localities. The male is shown. Unlike the Hawai’i ‘Amakihi, the female is very different, being generally grayish with distinct white wing-bars. Conservation status: Vulnerable.

Kaua‘i ‘Amakihi (Chlorodrepanis stejnegeri) fluttering wings during breeding season

Kaua’i ‘Amakihi Chlorodrepanis stejnegeri

This species is closely related to the ‘amakihi species on other islands. It differs, however, in having a much larger bill, and foraging for insects more along branches than in the foliage. This is probably due to the presence on Kaua’i of the ‘Anianiau (Magumma parva), which often gleans from leaves and has a nearly straight bill. Together, they fill the wider niche filled elsewhere by only an ‘amakihi. The call and song are identical to that of the Hawai’i ‘Amakihi, but, unlike that species, the male and female are nearly identical in plumage and the juveniles are only slightly duller than adults. Conservation status: Vulnerable