|Specimen in Bishop Museum, Honolulu|
Hemignathus ellisianus stejnegeri Hemignathus stejnegeri
The Kauaʻi ʻakialoa (Akialoa stejnegeri) was a finch in the Fringillidae family. It was endemic to the island of Kauai, Hawaii. It became extinct due to introduced avian disease and habitat loss. The Kauaʻi ʻakialoa was about seven and a half inches in length and had a very long downcurved bill, which covered one third of its length. The adult males were bright olive-yellow on top and yellow on the bottom. The throat, breast, and sides of the body were olive-yellow. The females, however, were green-gray above and had a shorter bill.
Habitat and behavior
The Kauaʻi ʻakialoa was believed to have survived in forests above 1,148 feet (350 m) above sea level, but has been observed frequently flying to the lower elevations of the island. This once very rare and unique bird used its long curved bill to reach the nectar of lobelias and ʻohiʻa blossoms. It also eats insects from under tree bark and from under mats of lichens and moss on trees.
Past and present
The Kauaʻi ʻakialoa, like all the other ʻakialoa subspecies, were rare even when they were first discovered in the 18th century. According to fossil records, their numbers declined extremely in the early 20th century. The typical habitats for the Kaua'i 'akialoa were either tropical lowlands or moist montane forests of the Hawaiian Islands.
Many people believe that the bird's frequent ventures to lower elevations were its undoing, it was probably caused by low elevation avian diseases. Vector mosquitos, an invasive species that led to demise of the ‘Akialoa, were first introduced via whaling ships in 1826. The insects tended to prefer low elevations, moist environments, and seasonally warm temperatures, which is exactly the conditions in which ‘Akialoa birds thrive. These mosquitoes were carrying a strain of malaria which infected and killed a majority of the ‘Akialoa birds, which began a slow and significant demise of the species, as well as many other Hawaiian species.
The last documented Kauaʻi ʻakialoa was seen in 1967. ʻAkialoa were once known on all of the other larger Hawaiian islands, but the Kaua`i species seems to have outlived all the rest. Unfortunately, scientists fear that even this bird might have gone extinct. Because these birds were so rare, not much is known about their life history.
Unusual changes to low-elevation ecosystems caused the downfall of many if not all major forest birds on Kauaʻi. These changes began when the first Polynesians settled on the island and cleared some of the healthy land for crops through logging and deforestation. With every new settler, invasive plants and animals entered the Hawaiian Islands. Today, only about 40,000 acres (160 km2) of Kauaʻi have not been drastically altered. Many avian diseases and parasites also pose a major threat to Hawaiʻi's forest birds. The severe weather on the islands have also caused dramatic forest fires in the past, causing even further habitat destruction for the Kaua'i 'akialoa.
The Forest Reserve Act of 1903 created the way to protecting watershed and forests on the island. In 1907, the Hawaiian Territorial Legislature passed a law to protect all native perching birds. In 1964, two scientists, F. Richardson and J. Bowles, published a survey of the birds of Kauaʻi and introduced the world to these birds' beautiful and fragile existence.
The Kauaʻi ʻakialoa was put down as an endangered species in 1967 under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The service began bird surveys on Kauaʻi from 1968 to 1973. Extensive work on the puaiohi, another rare Kauaʻi forest bird, has yielded no sightings of the Kauaʻi ʻakialoa.
- BirdLife International (2017). "Akialoa stejnegeri". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2017: e.T103823250A119550506. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T103823250A119550506.en. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- Steinberg, Michael K., et al. "Land-Use Changes and Conservation of the Hawai'i 'Amakihi." Geographical Review, vol. 100, no. 2, Apr. 2010, pp. 204-215. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1931-0846.2010.00022.x.
- Taylor, Susan Champlin. "Searching for Hope in the Family Tree." National Wildlife (World Edition), vol. 36, no. 3, Apr/May98, p. 36. EBSCOhost, www.proxy.its.virginia.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=388912&site=ehost-live&scope=site.