Ke Kani Haʻihaʻi i ka Nahele o Hawaiʻi

Photo: Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi
A young male caught before the act. – Photos: Bret N. Mossman

The Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens) is a chatty, sharp-looking honeycreeper that can be found on the islands of Hawaiʻi, Maui, and Molokaʻi, but is no longer known on Lānaʻi. It is one of the most common Hawaiian honeycreepers, second only to the ʻapapane, with over 850,000 individuals found on Hawaiʻi Island alone.

This bird has shown adaptability, and possible resistance, in the face of avian malaria which is a severe threat to many other native bird species. Male Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi start singing their heart songs in early spring, a rapid series of ascending and decending “zsee” sounding notes that call to females for the breeding season.

Photo: Vibrant female ʻamakihi
Up close and personal with this vibrant female ʻamakihi. PC: Bret N. Mossman

The Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi is skilled at foraging for arthropods (insects, spiders) and flowers in many native and introduced plants. Unlike some other specialized honeycreepers, this bird is a generalist with a pointed bill and a particular liking for lehua and māmane nectar. Their plumage, a lesser used source for royal featherwork during ancient times, varies from bright yellow-green in males to a muted olive in females. If you look closely, you may notice their sleek black eye masks and partially covered nares or nose holes, which protect them from inhaling pollen while foraging.