(KŌKE‘E STATE PARK, KAUA‘I) –A muddy and weary team from the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project (KFBRP), arrived here in time for the annual blessing of the field season for conservationists working against the clock to save numerous species of Hawaiian Honeycreepers from extinction.

For more than a decade, the hālau from Ka ʻImi Naʻauao O Hawaiʻi Nei Institute have performed ‘oli and chants to kick off the annual forest bird field season. Kumu Keahi Manea commented prior to last Friday’s blessing, “We made the commitment years ago and we’ve learned a lot about the birds we didn’t know. They’ve learned a lot about hula, and chant, and mele, and things Hawaiian they didn’t know. They inspired us to create new ‘oli, mele, songs, and hula. We love doing it.”

Tyler Winter, a field crew leader with KFBRP, spent the first four-day long field excursion with a team doing predator control work and bird captures. The teams are trying to bring as many of the extremely endangered birds into safety as possible, while efforts to control avian malaria-carrying mosquitos ramp up. Once the disease threat is under control the hope is to return honeycreeper species to the wild, like the remote mountainous areas in the Kōke‘e, Waimea Canyon, Alaka‘i Plateau regions of Kaua‘i.

“I think it’s important to have these blessings. As the populations of these birds diminish and we must go further and further into the field to access them, so much of our time is spent in the field, we don’t have much time to interact with people. Being at a blessing like this is super important, because it’s one of the few times we get to see the impacts these birds have on people and their important cultural significance. It also helps with our new hires we take into the field to have them see the engagement that’s going on with the forest birds.

On Friday’s blessing day, KFBRP and the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee (KISC) had outreach and education displays set up under tents, along with experts to answer visitors’ questions.

Kim Rogers of KISC said, that while her organization typically deals with issues like Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD), there’s a clear nexus between forest health and biodiversity and the plight of Hawai‘i’s forest birds.

“When people think about fauna in our forests, they think about our precious forest birds. ʻŌhiʻa and the forest birds have a very reciprocal relationship in that the trees provide homes, food, and nectar. In return the forest birds help pollinate ʻōhiʻa lehua. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. You can’t have one or talk about one without having the other.”

The hālau performed several original mele, including one that describes the beauty and characteristics of several at-risk species like, ‘akikiki and kiwikiu, two of the honeycreepers expected to completely disappear from Hawaiian forests imminently.

Governor Josh Green, M.D. and Kaua‘i Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami have both proclaimed Makahiki o Nā Manu Nahele, The Year of the Forest Birds. That recognition along with Friday’s blessing is giving encouragement and hope to the teams working to save the birds.

Winter explained, “This season is going to be really cool. We’ll be traveling a lot across the Alaka‘i Plateau. Last season we did a really focused recovery effort for the ‘akikiki, as such we spent a lot of time in areas that we knew were good habitat and high quality for those birds. This year we’re doing more of a survey of the entire plateau. The dream would be if there are ‘akikiki still out there or other pockets of endangered species we’ll be able to encounter them and hopefully gain more information on how to protect them.”

All the researchers and conservationists involved in forest bird recovery projects, especially on Kaua‘i and Maui say they are realistic but hopeful. To work in conservation and to protect these species you have to be hopeful. We’ll have keen eyes and ears out for them. That’s what we’ll be doing this year.”


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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)


HD video – Kaua‘i forest bird field season blessing (March 1, 2024):

(Shot sheet/transcriptions attached)


HD video – Ka ʻImi Naʻauao O Hawaiʻi Nei full mele and hula (March 1, 2024)

(Recorded as live)


Photographs – Kauaʻi forest bird field season blessing (March 1, 2024):


Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Communications Director