Hawaiian honeycreeper

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Hawaiian honeycreeper
ʻIʻiwi (Vestiaria coccinea)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae
Subfamily: Carduelinae

see text


Drepanidini[verification needed] (see text)

Hawaiian honeycreepers are small, passerine birds endemic to Hawaiʻi. Some authorities still categorize this group as a family Drepanididae,[1] other authorities consider them a subfamily, Drepanidinae, of Fringillidae, the finch family. This grouping is supported by a recent study that used DNA evidence to form a phylogeny that links the Hawaiian honeycreepers to the Asian rosefinches.[2] The entire group is also called "Drepanidini" in treatments where buntings and American sparrows (Emberizidae) are included in the finch family; this term is preferred for just one subgroup of the birds today.[3][4] Most recently, the entire group has been subsumed into the subfamily Carduelinae.


The group is divided into three tribes, but only very provisionally so. Several taxa appear to be too basal to really place into one of these, and others are best considered incertae sedis. Some unusual forms never seen alive by scientists, such as Xestospiza or Vangulifer, cannot easily be placed into any tribe.


Members of Psittirostrini, known as "Hawaiian finches", are granivorous with thick finch-like bills, and songs like those of cardueline finches. The group once covered the islands. Finch-billed drepanids include the Laysan finch, the Nihoa finch, the Maui parrotbill and the palila, which may be the last remaining species left alive in this group. Extinct species include the four koa finches, the ʻōʻū, and the Lānaʻi hookbill.


Hemignathini includes the Hawaiʻi creeper and its allies, such as the nukupuʻu. These are generally green-plumaged birds with thin bills, and feed on nectar and insects. Members of this group usually have green, yellow, orange, red, and gray feathers.


Species in the tribe Drepanidini are nectarivorous, and their songs contain nasal squeaks and whistles. Members of this group often have red black, yellow, white and orange plumage. It includes the ʻiʻiwi.


The male Hawaiian honeycreepers are more brightly colored than the females in the Psittirostrini, but in the Hemignathini, they often look very similar. The flowers of the native ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) are favored by a number of nectarivorous honeycreepers. Many species of this subfamily have been noted to have a plumage odor that has been termed the "Drepanidine odor",[5] and is suspected to have a role in making the bird distasteful to predators.[6]

The wide range of bills in this group, from thick, finch-like bills to slender, downcurved bills for probing flowers have arisen through adaptive radiation, where an ancestral finch has evolved to fill a large number of ecological niches. Some 20 species of Hawaiian honeycreeper have become extinct in the recent past, and many more in earlier times, between the arrival of the Polynesians who introduced the first rats, chickens, pigs, and dogs, and hunted and converted habitat for agriculture.[7][8]

Genera and species[edit]

The term "prehistoric" indicates species that went extinct between the initial human settlement of Hawaiʻi (i.e., from the late 1st millennium AD on) and European contact in 1778.

Subfamily Carduelinae

See also[edit]

Cited references[edit]

  1. ^ Clements, J. 2007. The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World. 6th ed. ISBN 978-0-7136-8695-1
  2. ^ Lerner, Heather R. L.; Meyer, Matthias; James, Helen F.; Hofreiter, Michael; Fleischer, Robert C. (2011). "Multilocus Resolution of Phylogeny and Timescale in the Extant Adaptive Radiation of Hawaiian Honeycreepers". Current Biology 21 (21): 1838–1844. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.09.039. PMID 22018543. 
  3. ^ Dickinson, E, ed. (2003). The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World (3rd ed.). Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-11701-0. 
  4. ^ AOU Check-list of North American Birds Accessed 26 December 2007
  5. ^ Pratt, H Douglas (2002). The Hawaiian Honeycreepers. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-19-854653-5. 
  6. ^ Weldon, Paul J; John H. Rappole (1997). "A Survey of Birds Odorous or Unpalatable to Humans: Possible Indications of Chemical Defense". Journal of Chemical Ecology (Springer Science+Business Media) 23 (11): 2609–2633. doi:10.1023/B:JOEC.0000006670.79075.92. 
  7. ^ Olson, Storrs L.; James, Helen F (1991). "Descriptions of Thirty-Two New Species of Birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-Passeriformes". Ornithological Monographs 45 (45): 1–91. doi:10.2307/40166794. hdl:10088/1745. 
  8. ^ James, Helen F.; Olson, Storrs L (1991). "Descriptions of Thirty-Two New Species of Birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes". Ornithological Monographs 46 (46): 1–92. doi:10.2307/40166713. hdl:10088/1746. 
  9. ^ James, Helen F; Storrs L. Olson (2003). "A giant new species of nukupuu (Fringillidae: Drepanidini: Hemignathus) from the island of Hawaii". The Auk 120 (4): 970–981. doi:10.1642/0004-8038(2003)120[0970:AGNSON]2.0.CO;2. 
  10. ^ James, Helen F.; Johnathan P. Prince (May 2008). "Integration of palaeontological, historical, and geographical data on the extinction of koa-finches". Diversity & Distributions 14 (3): 441–451. doi:10.1111/j.1472-4642.2007.00442.x. 

Other references[edit]

  • Groth, J. G. 1998. Molecular phylogeny of the cardueline finches and Hawaiian honeycreepers. Ostrich, 69: 401.

External links[edit]