Hawai‘i’s forest birds are unique and beautiful and adorably round. Probably the most iconic native bird, the ‘i‘iwi, is a bright red and black bird with a beak and legs a little longer than maybe looks quite right. It’s a wonderfully weird bird. It hangs upside down and does all sorts of stretches and contortions to get to the nectar inside flowers. Its beak is shaped just perfectly to slip down the blossoms of the native lobelias and it has this tiny little tongue for slurping nectar. Their song sounds like a squeaky door and I love them so much. But like the other native forest birds here, they are struggling to stay alive.
There are a lot of challenges facing Hawai‘i’s honeycreepers, the most pressing include mosquito spread disease, invasive predators, and habitat loss. Some species have numbers that have dwindled down to below 200 remaining individuals. Since the beginning of the 1800s, thirty-one types of Hawaiian birds have gone extinct. Just last month the US government declared 8 Hawaiian forest birds extinct. The list contained 23 species of animals declared officially extinct but 8, EIGHT out of 23, were right here in this one state of Hawai‘i. And I’m very sad to think that more will go the same way unless there is a concerted effort among scientists, government agencies, local officials, residents, and bird lovers. Twelve more native birds are on the edge of extinction and 4 of those have fewer than 2,000 individuals left.
The good news is there are plans in the works to help make things better for these wonderful little feathery forest gems. And spreading the word about the challenges they face is something we can all do. The more people talk about these birds, the more they know about their situation, the more they see of them--how beautiful and unique they are--the more awareness there will be about protecting them. The native birds of Hawai‘i are a treasure we can all enjoy.