COURTESY ERIC VANDERWERF / EWERF@HAWAII.RR.COM
The akekee, left, and akikiki are rare Kauai forest birds that will be considered for the endangered species list. The birds, which live only on Kauai, are dwindling in numbers.
Groups try to save Kauai birds
Two rare birds that live only on Kauai have been dropping alarmingly in numbers and should be put onto the U.S. endangered species list, a noted Hawaii scientist and a national wildlife group say.
The American Bird Conservancy and Eric VanderWerf submitted a petition yesterday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of the akekee and the akikiki, both of which live in the higher elevations of the Alakai Wilderness.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to decide whether to conduct a yearlong status review of the birds. A review is required before adding a species to the list, said agency spokesman Ken Foote.
A special survey of the two birds was done in April and May this year after birders, scientists and nature tour leaders reported seeing fewer akekee, said VanderWerf, of Pacific Rim Conservation, a consulting group.
"People's observations were that the akekee has disappeared from several areas where it had been easy to find in past," VanderWerf said yesterday. "And the akikiki have been definitely in trouble and a candidate for listing since 1994."
The akikiki (Oreomystis bairdi) are small honeycreepers, dark above and light below, with a pink bill.
The current population of the akikiki could be as few as 782 birds, down from about 7,000 birds in 1970. The geographic range occupied by the akikiki has shrunk from 34 square miles in 1970 to 14 square miles in 2000 and could be even less now, the American Bird Conservancy said in a release.
Akekee also are honeycreepers (Loxops caeruleirostris), yellow and green with short blue bills and long notched tails.
The current population of the akekee is estimated to be as low as 2,506 birds, compared with about 8,000 birds in 2000. The bird's range also has gotten smaller.
The birds need study to determine what is causing them to die off, VanderWerf said.
"We don't really know what the causes are," he said, although there is suspicion that mosquito-borne diseases -- malaria and avian pox -- are moving to higher elevations with global warming.
"The listing of akikiki and akekee to me is a slam dunk," VanderWerf said.
The last time a Hawaii bird was added to the list was the Oahu elepaio in 2000.