Populations of two native endangered species endemic to Maui have been reduced by over half spanning the past two to three decades, according to an interagency report.
The kiwikiu or Maui parrotbill and the ‘ākohekohe or crested honeycreeper are only found in the East Maui areas surveyed. The report says fewer than 312 kiwikiu and 2,411‘ākohekohe remain in the wild.
“The most recent Maui endemic forest bird to go extinct was the po‘ouli (black-faced honeycreeper, Melamprosops phaeosoma) in 2004, and based on the findings from this survey, we are worried the kiwikiu is next,” USGS Wildlife Research Specialist Seth Judge said in a news release.
Researchers cited disease, predators and deteriorating habitat as factors for the birds' decline. The most serious long-term threat is the avian malaria, which is spreading up forest elevations because of climate change. Over time, it could lead to the extinction of most of Hawaii's native songbirds, the report warns.
Hanna Mounce of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project (MFBRP), said it is urgent that recovery efforts move ahead for the sake of the threatened species. "If we wait for much longer, we will not have these species left to save,” Mounce said.
The report covers bird population estimates in Haleakalā National Park and reserves managed by the state Department of Forestry and Wildlife.
Park Superintendent Natalie Gates said controlling avian malaria and non-native predators and restoring the birds' habitat are all needed.
"Currently we are exploring projects to control avian malaria in hopes of giving these unique and spectacular species a better chance of survival,” she said.