Hawaiian honeycreeper

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

See text


Drepanidini[verification needed] (see text)

Beak and tongue shapes of the Drepanididae and the Mohoidae

Hawaiian honeycreepers are small, passerine birds endemic to Hawaiʻi. They are closely related to the rosefinches in the genus Carpodacus. Their great morphological diversity is the result of adaptive radiation in an insular environment.[1][2]

Before the introduction of molecular phylogenetic techniques, the relationship of the Hawaiian honeycreepers to other bird species was controversial. The honeycreepers were sometimes categorized as a family Drepanididae,[3] other authorities considered them a subfamily, Drepanidinae, of Fringillidae, the finch family. The entire group was also called "Drepanidini" in treatments where buntings and American sparrows (Passerellidae) are included in the finch family; this term is preferred for just one subgroup of the birds today.[4][5] Most recently, the entire group has been subsumed into the finch subfamily Carduelinae.[2][6]


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.


Birds of the tribe Hemignathini are generally thin-billed billed species that feed on nectar and insects, and include the ʻamakihis as well as the Hawaiʻi creeper and its allies, such as the nukupuʻu. Though these are generally green-plumaged birds, a few members of this group have yellow, orange, red and/or gray feathers.


Species in the tribe Drepanidini are nectarivorous, and their songs contain nasal squeaks and whistles. It includes the ʻiʻiwi, ʻapapane, ʻakohekohe and the extinct mamos.


In the tribe Psittirostrini the males are more brightly colored than the females, but in the Hemignathini and Drepanidini they often look very similar. Nearly all species of Hawaiian Honeycreepers have been noted as having a unique odor to their plumage, described by many researchers as "rather like that of old canvas tents".[7][8] This "Drepanidine odor" is suspected by some as having a role in making the bird distasteful to predators.[9]

Today, the flowers of the native ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) are favored by a number of nectarivorous honeycreepers. 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.[10][11]

Genera and species[edit]

The term "prehistoric" indicates species that became 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. ^ Lerner, H.R.L.; Meyer, M.; James, H.F.; Fleischer, R.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.
  2. ^ a b Zuccon, Dario; Prŷs-Jones, Robert; Rasmussen, Pamela C.; Ericson, Per G.P. (2012). "The phylogenetic relationships and generic limits of finches (Fringillidae)" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 62 (2): 581–596. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.10.002. PMID 22023825.
  3. ^ Clements, J. 2007. The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World. 6th ed. ISBN 978-0-7136-8695-1
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ AOU Check-list of North American Birds Accessed 26 December 2007
  6. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David (eds.). "Finches, euphonias". World Bird List Version 5.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  7. ^ Pratt, H Douglas (2002). The Hawaiian Honeycreepers. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-19-854653-5.
  8. ^ Pratt, H. Douglas (1992). "Is the Poo-uli a Hawaiian Honeycreeper (Drepanidinae)?" (PDF). The Condor. Cooper Ornithological Society. 94: 172–180. doi:10.2307/1368806. JSTOR 1368806.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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. JSTOR 40166794.
  11. ^ 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. JSTOR 40166713.
  12. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2014). The Eponym Dictionary of Birds. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9781472905741. The genus Aidemedia is named in honor of Joan Aidem.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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]