Kiwikiu

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Image:Kiwikiu.JPG

Hawaiian Name: kiwikiu
Common Name: Mau’i Parrotbill
Scientific Name: Pseudonestor xanthophrys

Size: 6 inches (14cm)

Habitat: Oceania; endemic to Mau’i in the Hawaiian Islands (USA), where it is found on the north-eastern slopes of Haleakala, although fossil evidence indicates that it occurred in the lowlands and on Moloka`i.

It is now restricted to montane mesic and wet forest at 1,200-2,150 m (mainly 1,500-2,000 m), and is absent from adjacent areas dominated by exotic trees.

Status: Critically Endangered. Global Population: 500 mature individuals. From 1945 to 1995, the invasion of feral pigs on Haleakala caused chronic habitat degradation and facilitated the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes into remote rainforests. Most of the species’ range is now fenced however, and the species may respond positively as a result. However, the interaction between malaria and climate change is a potential future threat; modeling has suggested a possible population decline of c.75% by 2090. Furthermore, having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change. Weather influences the survival of young and thus potential recruitment rates. Other limiting factors include predation and competition from exotic bird and insect species. Rats have been observed high in native 'olapa trees and are both a potential predator of eggs and young and a potential source of competition for berries. Nest predation by the Hawaiian Short-eared Owl (Asia flammeus sandwichensis) has been observed, though its extent and effect is unknown. Removal of small mammal nest predators may result in owl populations switching to a greater proportion of birds in their diet.

Conservation measures underway: The East Maui watershed is cooperatively managed with fencing at c.1,070 m and removal of feral ungulates. In the Waikamoi Preserve, Hanawi Natural Area Reserve and Haleakala National Park, conservation practices additionally combat the establishment of alien plants and, from the late 1980s, feral pigs have been controlled. As a result, the forest understory has recovered well and non-native plant invasions have slowed. Rats are being poisoned, although only in a tiny area. A small population of the kiwikiu exists in captivity, having bred for the first time in 2000, and numbered ten individuals (three males and seven females) in 2003. Progeny from this flock will be used for a pilot release program in the mesic forests of leeward East Maui where weather conditions may result in higher productivity. The Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership has been established to restore the south side of Maui's forests, and the State of Hawaii is working on fencing the leeward side which still contains some old growth koa - it is possible this may become a further suitable site for the establishment of a population

Diet: Larvae and pupae of wood- and fruit-boring beetles, moths and other invertebrates. It uses its large beak and powerful jaw muscles to remove bark and wood from small trees and shrubs such as ʻākala (Rubus hawaiensis), kanawao (Broussaisia arguta), and ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), eating the insects underneath. The Maui parrotbill also bites open fruits in search of insects. Pairs of birds forage in a territory of 2.3 hectares (5.7 acres), which they must defend from competing parrotbills.

Breeding: Chunky, short-tailed, big-headed passerine with huge parrot-like bill. Male olive-green above, yellow below with dark streak through eye and bold, sharply defined yellow superciliary. Two-toned bill, upper third of maxilla dark, remainder pale yellowish-pink. Female duller with much smaller bill.

The nest is cup-shaped and placed in the outer canopy forks of mature ohia (Metrosideros polymorpha) - a situation that may afford some protection from introduced predators. During the breeding season (November to June), one chick is usually raised per year and young are dependent on parents for 5-8 months.

Cool Facts: Its call is a short “chip”, which is similar to the Maui Nui ʻAlauahio, chirped every three to five seconds. It song consists of “cheer” notes that are slower and richer than the ʻākepa. It also has a short song that sounds like “cheer-wee”.

As far as anyone can determine, Pseudonestor xanthophrys had not historically had a common name in the Hawaiian language. The name Hawaiian kiwikiu was developed by the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee, who was contacted by the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project to select an appropriate name. A naming ceremony was held in the bird's habitat in September 2010. The "kiwi" part of the name means bent or curved (e.g., sickle-shaped), which refers to the shape of the bill of this bird. "Kiu" has a double meaning, referring both to the bird's secretive ways and to a cold, chilly wind, such as the breezes in the bird's habitat.  

Found in Songbird ReMix Hawai'i

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