Europeans arrived after 'discovery' of the islands by Captain Cook in 1778. They brought more alien plants as well as sheep, goats, cattle, horses, pigs, dogs, cats and rats. The grazing animals decimated the local flora, and native birds were forced higher on the mountains to find their usual food sources.
As we saw in the last bulletin, many species of shorebirds migrate back and forth from Hawaii to other continents. These birds carry diseases like avian malaria and avian pox. However, there were no native mosquitoes on Hawaii to transmit the disease to the local birds. In mid 1800s, there was a release of mosquito larvae from a ship's water tanks. This spread these diseases to the local birds who had no natural resistance at all. Fortunately, the mosquitoes breed only up to about 3000' elevation, so on those islands with tall mountains, (Kauai, Hawaii, Maui) there remained disease free areas still.
A further 25 species have gone extinct since the settlement by Europeans. Several species have become extinct in the last 20 years and some other critically endangered ones, are being bred in captivity in attempt to preserve them. For further reading and pictures of these beautiful birds that are gone forever, see this page.
On Maui, the only place to see some of these remaining rare birds is Hosmer Grove and the Waikamoi Preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy. Both places are in Haleakala National Park. I was fortunate to get the services of a docent to take me into the Nature Conservancy preserve, as access is severely restricted.
2 birds in the latest guide book by the Hawaii Audubon Society (2005) edition are extinct..the Poouli, and Nukupuu were last seen on Maui in the 1990s. so the rarest bird left is the Maui Parrotbill (population estimated about 500) which I did not see. The docent says he finds them about once a month making 2-3 visits per week.
The Akohekohe (Palmeri dolei) or Crested Honeycreeper is the 2nd rarest extant Maui endemic with a population estimated at 3,500 birds. It is a 7" predominately black bird with reddish orange nape of neck and similar colored spots on flanks. It was a cold raining day on my visit, but I did see a single bird and got 1 quick photo. A lifer for me, as I missed it on previous visits to Maui. I need to return to get a better photo!
|Maui Alauahio - male|
|Hawaii Amakihi - Maui subspecies|
|Apapane - adult|
photos copyright 2012 David McDonald
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