Photo: Akekeʻe dissecting psyllid galls
Akekeʻe dissecting psyllid galls on ʻōhiʻa (Metrosideros polymorpha) leaves. Similar in appearance to ʻamakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens) but lacking their distinctive black eye mask and black downturned bill. - Photo: Ann Tanimoto Johnson/ LOHE Lab

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Akekeʻe (Loxops caeruleirostris) is one of two critically endangered endemic honeycreepers on Kauaʻi (the other being ʻakikiki) and are wild only in Kōkeʻe’s eastern Alakaʻi Plateau. Over 150 years ago, Queen Emma took a daring journey across the dramatic cliffs and otherworldly bogs of Kōkeʻe, bringing worldwide attention to the forest’s beauty and biodiversity.

Akekeʻe is a master of concealment and continues to elude, in appearance and song, some of Hawaiʻi’s most experienced birders. As populations decline, Kauaʻi’s native honeycreepers are beginning to sound more like each other. Named after their distinct keʻe (offset and twisted) bill, akekeʻe spend much time foraging in the canopy and use their asymmetrical mandibles like chopsticks to pry open ʻōhiʻa buds and slice open the hardened galls of parasitic psyllid insects. Unlike their close relative, Hawaiʻi ʻākepa, which nest in koa cavities, akekeʻe build delicate mossy cup nests that both partners help to construct.