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Hawaiian Name: ‘akikiki
Common Name: Kaua’i Creeper
Scientific Name: Oreomystis bairdi

Size: 5.75 inches (13cm)

Habitat: Oceania; endemic to Kaua’i. Found only in wet montane forests in central Kauai where it now occupies less than 10% of its former range.

Status: Critically Endangered. Global Population: 780 - 1,840 mature individuals. The population has declined dramatically since the 1960s and this trend appears to be continuing owing to a number of threatening processes. Consequently, the population is estimated to be declining very rapidly.

Lowland forests have been cleared for timber and agriculture, with feral livestock causing further degradation and destruction. Feral pigs continue to be particularly detrimental, additionally dispersing alien plants and facilitating the spread of introduced mosquitoes which transmit avian malaria and avian pox. Domestic and introduced birds provide reservoirs for these diseases, to which there is little resistance in Hawaiian honeycreeper populations. Predation by introduced animals and competition for arthropod resources by introduced taxa (especially Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus, wasps and ants) are additional threats. Introduced plants such as Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), blackberry (Rubus argutus), strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), Australian tree fern (Cyathea cooperi) and firetree (Myrica faya) have degraded much native forest in Koke'e, and threaten the remaining habitat. Hurricanes have had major impacts on population size in the past; in 1992 Hurricane Iniki devastated forests throughout Kaua`i, and all bird populations on the island appeared to have been drastically reduced, although some have since recovered. Hurricanes are now thought to displace birds from the small area of suitable habitat at altitude and push them into the lowlands where avian malaria is prevalent. A growing concern is that rising temperatures could allow mosquitoes to survive at higher altitudes and further transmit avian malaria and avian pox, and having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change.

Diet: Insects, larvae, and spiders. Forages among the twigs and branches of ohi'a (Metrosideros polymorpha) and koa (Acacia koa) trees. Possesses a tongue that is specially designed for extracting insects from crevices in bark, unlike the tubular nectar-drinking tongue of other members of the Hawaiian honeycreeper family.

Breeding: Akikiki juveniles have “spectacles” and will retain the dull pink bill into maturity. The Akikiki builds a simple open-cup nest between March and May, perhaps only in ohi'a trees. Both parents have been observed bringing food to the nest, with the male providing some food for the female, though the female also forages independently. A nesting pair in 2007 had a juvenile from a previous nest, indicating the species will attempt to raise two broods.

Cool Facts: While this species' core population resides in the protected Alaka'i Swamp region, it has been suggested that this site may not be ideal habitat but is utilized because optimum lowland habitat has been either lost or altered. To this end one of the key conservation strategies may be reestablishment of low elevation native forests. Meanwhile, the most important effort would be to fence portions of the Alaka'i Swamp and begin removal of feral ungulates and other introduced mammals. Lack of information on this species' life history and population dynamics is a serious impediment to recovery efforts, and studies are greatly needed. Like many other Hawaiian bird species that are in need of critical conservation, funds are lacking as is the will on behalf of the US Congress to carry out the recommended actions that may save the species from extinction.

The Zoological Society of San Diego is developing techniques for rearing Oreomystis creepers from eggs and breeding them in captivity, using the related Hawai`i Creeper, at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center. The Hawai`i Creeper has been successfully propagated in captivity, and release of the captive population is planned. Captive breeding of ‘akikiki was due to begin in 2008.

The Hawaiian word, ‘akikiki probably refers to the birds’ call

Found in Songbird ReMix Hawai'i

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