Rare bird thought to be extinct appears on Hawaiian volcano

By | July 27, 2021

From beyond the grave, this believed-dead bird has made an appearance.

In a failed attempt to help the critically endangered kiwikiu, or Maui Parrotbill, seven of the gold-and-green birds were translocated to Maui’s Nakula Natural Area Reserve in October 2019. However, an epidemic of avian malaria transmitted by “non-native” mosquitos killed five of them. The remaining two were assumed dead — until this Wednesday, SFGate reported.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources researcher Zach Pezzillo was at the Haleakalā volcano-based reserve when his keen ear picked up a very specific bird song in the distance. 

“I first heard what I thought might be a distant kiwikiu song,” Pezzillo said in a statement, according to SFGate. “It then sang about ten times across a gulch in some koa trees.”

The creature, which birders thought had perished in the bird epidemic or the years since, then began acquiring various items, all while continuing its ditty.

“It dropped down into some kolea trees where it spent the next twenty minutes calling and actively foraging through the berries, bark and leaves,” he said. Taking a closer look, Pezzillo was able to confirm that the bird was one of the two lost Maui Parrotbill’s thanks to a banded mark on its leg.

That the chirping fellow is still alive and kicking is a miracle, experts said.

“This bird has been exposed to disease, as the others were, and has somehow persevered,” said Dr. Hanna Moucne of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. 

Its apparent survival offers hope for the survival of other similar species in the reserve’s specific environment.

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“This is an amazing sign of hope for the species as we still may have time to save them…This is a hopeful sign that a population of kiwikiu and other native forest birds could survive in restored landscapes in the future, especially without mosquitoes and disease,” Moucne said. 

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