Hawaiian ‘I’iwi May Receive Federal Protection

The ‘i’iwi Bird is an endemic species to Hawaii, which means that it is only found on the chain of islands in Hawaii. It was once one of the most common forest birds found on the forested islands all the way to sea level, but challenges to the bird’s success have severely threatened the species. The ‘i’iwi birds are mainly found in wet or moderately wet forests where their primary source of food is found, ‘ohi’a and koa trees. They are more successful it seems at higher elevations, above 1,250m, but this could be attributed because disease carrying mosquitos can’t survive above this level. The birds are also known as Honeycreeper because of their oddly shaped beaks which are specialized in getting nectar from flowers. The reason for the decline in population can be attributed to a number of factors such as habitat loss, and the introduction of alien plants and animals, as well as avian disease. According to an article published on KITV Fish and Wildlife Services received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Life Net to consider the ‘i’iwi for addition to the threatened or endangered species list, as well as dedicating a critical habitat for the birds. The factors KITV listed from the petition are as follows:
  • Habitat degradation and loss due to browsing, trampling and digging by nonnative feral ungulates (pigs, goats, axis deer).
  • Encroachment and invasion by nonnative plants.
  • Increase in frequency and intensity of fire, and urbanization.
  • The spread of avian malaria and avian pox parasitism by bird lice.
  • Predation by nonnative animals including rats and cats.
  • Inadequate regulations to alleviate the effects of global climate change, to protect ‘i’iwi habitat, and to prevent the introduction and spread of nonnative species.
  • Disease epizootics.
There are ‘i’iwi birds found on four Hawaiian Islands, including Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and the Big Island. Their populations on Oahu and Kauai are severely low, and numbers are thought to be around 50 individuals on the two islands.

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