Photo: Male kiwikiu
Male kiwikiu posing at Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, Hawai‘i. Notice his thick parrot-like bill and sturdy frame perfect for tearing into bark and branches. - Photo: Ann Tanimoto Johnson/ LOHE Lab

Rediscovered in 1950, Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill – Pseudonestor xanthophrys) is one of the rarest of the Hawaiian honeycreepers.

These relatively large, greenish-yellow birds have a curved parrot-like bill ideal for extracting insects and larvae from understory branches. Kiwikiu is difficult to detect in their rugged, densely vegetated habitat and are typically heard by their high-pitched “chew-ee” call before being seen.

On a lucky day, one may find Kiwikiu’s signature mark – a delicate chevron-shaped puncture on undevoured kanawao fruits (an endemic berry). Why Kiwikiu leave some fruits uneaten in this way remains a mystery.

With a single declining population in eastern Waikamoi and fewer than 100 individuals remaining, Kiwikiu’s fight for survival is critical. Reducing Culex mosquito loads that transmit deadly avian malaria, captive breeding, and the movement of individuals from Maui to high elevation forests on other islands, are a few conservation strategies currently in the works to help save Kiwikiu from extinction.