Hawaiian Honeycreepers!

The 'Akikiki Journey

Life of The 'Akikiki

From a juvenile age, I, the Kaua'i Honeycreeper, have been at risk from many things. Deforestation, disease, habitat deterioration, and climate change are the main components in my reasoning for being listed on the Critically Endangered Red List since 2000. Breeding between two of my species only results to a single brood that have a lengthy juvenile dependency, which ultimately brings re-population to a futile battle. Our food supply was abundant and plentiful before our forests were decreased, causing our main source of food, arthropods, to find home elsewhere.

I was a common species in the 1890's on the island of Kaua'i , but when Hawaii was taken over by the U.S, my population decreased in fluctuating patterns. 6,832 was the estimated population during 1968-1973, and my species was widely spread across La'au and Koke'e. But since then, numbers have declined rapidly and retreated from our provenience to fringe the borders of the Alaka'i region to remain uncommon or rare to find. Based on studies and surveys that have been conducted over the many decades, the total number of my species is at an alarming 468, and still steadily decreasing with each passing year. My species could have been restored years ago, but it appears any attempt will result futile and labor-some. Woodlands that acted as my home have been cut down for agriculture and timber, and feral species that are invasive flood my habitat and pose as a formidable threat. Diseases from mosquitoes and introduced birds of a non-native origin affect my population the most, aside from the habitat deterioration and changing climates.

Feral hogs and pigs feast on our main source of food: arthropods. By rooting around in the decaying soil of a dead tree, where arthropods resign, they consume any of the insects that they find. I hop along the dead branches and trunks of fallen trees in search of a meal along with family members of mine or just neighboring species, but to my distress, I'm only left with the desolation that the invasive hogs have left behind. The declining vicinity of native forests doesn't aid in my struggle as well. Without a home to be safe in, and without food to sustain a dying population, my recovery seems out of grasp.

Reproduction isn't exactly a suitable way of increasing the population since one pair of my species only reproduces one brood, and it's likely that brood will parish in the first year of adolescence. Even still, if that brood were to survive, the juvenile dependence of my species lasts for a year and few months, meaning that they won't reproduce when most birds of their age do. The increasing climate temperature also results in the increasing population of mosquitoes which bring fatal diseases with them. Many 'Akikiki juveniles are affected by malaria, and I'm thankful I have haven't been.


How We Evolved

It's said that all Honeycreepers, including my own species, derive from the Carpodacus, also known as the Rosefinch. The species became diverse on each island because of irruption, the process of traveling in large, mixed-sex groups. It's said that in a migration of Rosefinches, stormy winds swept a portion of the flock towards the Hawaiian isles, which caused them to take refuge in the plentiful forests which were abundant with food and shelter at that time. It's said that my ancestors first appeared on the Hawaiian Islands 7.2 or 5.8 years ago, and since then have evolved based on the island's climate and forest inhabitants.

While scientists don't know the exact process of my evolution, they made an estimate. When a portion of the Rosefinch was blown towards Kaua'i, many of them died in the process but more survived and began to accustom themselves to their new surroundings. For many generations, the finches cross-reproduced with species of evolving finches to the west, and northern finches reproduced with eastern finches, resulting in new species that either died off or continued to evolve until their species could only exclusively mate with their own kind. And finally, the last result was me, and my species: the Kaua'i Honeycreeper, the 'Akikiki.