The Kiwkiu, also known as the Maui Parrotbill, was once a common sight on the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Moloka’i. But as a result of human activity, feral pigs, wildcats, and mosquito-transmitted diseases, the golden, thick-billed bird’s population dwindled to around 150.
In a bid to increase the endangered bird’s population, conservationists took seven Kiwikiu to Maui’s Nakula Natural Area Reserve in 2019, five of which were killed by avian malaria that was transmitted to the birds by invasive mosquitos. The remaining two were believed to have suffered the same fate — that is until the discovery of one of them a few weeks ago, which was identified by a band on his leg.
Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources researcher Zach Pezzillo was the one who made the discovery. He recognized the bird’s distinct song a couple of weeks ago before spotting the bird on a reserve that covers the Haleakalā volcano.
“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. I walked down into the gulch to get a closer look,” said Pezzillo.
The department said in an announcement that the re-discovery of this individual bird is “remarkable” and “provides a glimmer of hope for saving a species.”
“This is an amazing sign of hope for the species as we still may have time to save them,” said Dr. Hanna Mouche of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. “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.”
Image source: Hawaii.org