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image: Iiwi.jpg

Hawaiian Name: ’I’iwi
Common Name: ’I’iwi
Scientific Name: Vestiaria coccinea

Size: 6.5 inches (15cm)

Habitat: Polynesia; found on Hawaii, Maui, and Kaua'i in dense wet forests.

Status: Near threatened. Global Population: 350,000. 'I'iwis face many of the same threats facing other native Hawaiian forest birds: habitat loss, avian disease, and introduction of alien plant and animal species. Of these threats, avian diseases, combined with the possible introduction of temperate mosquitoes, may pose the greatest risk to 'I'iwi populations. 'I'iwis are extremely susceptible to avian malaria and avian pox, which are both transmitted by mosquitoes. When bitten just once by a malaria-carrying mosquito, nine of ten 'I'iwis tested died within 37 days; when bitten multiple times by infected mosquitoes, all ten ‘I’iwis died of malaria. The incidence of malaria in wild 'I'iwis is greatest during the times of year when birds move to lower-elevation forests where nectar is available, but mosquitoes are also present. Mosquito-transmitted avian diseases seem to have a greater impact on 'I'iwis than on other Hawaiian honeycreepers. Currently, mosquitoes are confined primarily to the lowlands of the Hawaiian Islands, allowing 'I'iwis relief from avian diseases at higher elevations, but if a temperate, cold-tolerant mosquito species is introduced, it could prove disastrous for ‘I’iwis and other native Hawaiian forest birds.

Diet: Flower Nectar and some insects.

Breeding: Two eggs are laid in a cup nest of twigs, mosses, and lichens high in the crown of an 'ohia-lehua tree.

Cool Facts: The long curved bill of the 'I'iwi has evolutionally adapted to sip nectar from the long tubular flowers of the native Hawaiian lobelioids. They will pierce a hole in the base of the flower and extract the nectar with their brushy tipped tongues. They are important pollinators for many species of native plants. They forage high up in the mid to upper canopy of forests and will often defend a territory with a heavily flowering tree in it.

As the lobelioids have declined through habitat loss and extinction, 'I'iwis have shifted to feeding more on other native flowers such as the 'ohia-lehua, koa, naio, and mamane. This dietary shift has been reflected in the slight reduction in average bill length seen over the past century.

'I'iwis can produce a wide variety of calls from rusty door hinge sound to clear flute-like sounds. 'I'iwis breed and winter mainly in wet or moderately wet forests with 'ohi'a and koa as the dominant trees. They can also be found in dry forest dominated by mamane, but do not often breed in such forest. Although the species does occur in drier areas on Hawai'i as low as 300 meters, it is most commonly found above 1,250 meters of elevation, where disease-carrying mosquitoes are not present. 'I'iwis spend most of their time foraging on 'ohi'a trees, feeding primarily on 'ohi'a nectar, but also catching butterflies, moths, and other insects. Mamane nectar is another major part of 'I'iwis' diets, and in some areas, the nectar of the introduced banana poka is also an important food source.

Found in Songbird ReMix Cool and Unusual Birds and Songbird ReMix Hawai'i

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