Critical forest birds field season coming

Kumu and haumana of Ka ‘Imi Na‘auao O Hawai‘i and staff and volunteers from the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project held its annual Hawaiian blessing for the 2023 field season on Feb. 2, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said.

The blessing featured songs and dances to invoke the protection and goodwill of the gods and the elders for Kaua‘i’s native forest birds and their habitat.

Of the eight remaining forest bird species on Kaua‘i, at least two species of Hawaiian honeycreepers face imminent extinction. The ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e are threatened by mosquito-borne avian malaria.

Warmer climates during recent years have allowed nonnative mosquitoes to move to higher elevations, increasing the risk of disease to native forest birds. During this field season, the recovery project will collect as many of the remaining ‘akikiki as possible and place them under human care until mosquito control efforts can be implemented to ensure their survival in the wild.

“Kaua‘i’s forest birds are disappearing right in front of our eyes,” the recovery project said. “Five of the 13 species have vanished in the past 40 years, and three others, including the puaiohi, ‘akikiki and ‘akeke‘e, are critically endangered. Species disappeared with no records of song, behavior or appearance, making this loss even more devastating not only to scientists, conservationists and cultural practitioners, but to all of us.”

Forest bird recovery projects are a collaboration between the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the University of Hawai‘i Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit