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Location USA, Hawaii
Central coordinates 156o 54.00' West  21o 8.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 12,295 ha
Altitude 0 - 1,514m
Year of IBA assessment 2009


Site description The Moloka`i Forests Important Bird Area contains most of the native forest remaining on the island. It is 12,295 hectares in size, and extends from near sea level in several locations on the northern shore of the island to the highest summits on the island, Kamakou at 1514 meters (4970 feet) and Olokui at 1404 meters (4606 feet). The terrain is extremely rugged, with narrow ridges separated by deep stream valleys. Sea cliffs over 600 meters (2000 feet) tall, some of the highest in the world, occur in several locations along the northern coastline. Annual rainfall ranges from about one meter in the southwestern part of the area to over four meters at the head of Wailau Valley east of Olokui. Much of the area is covered in dense forest. Invasive alien plants dominate much of the lowlands, but the higher elevations contain primarily intact native forest and shrubland. The Olokui Plateau is an isolated mountain with steep sides that restrict access to alien ungulates, and is one of the most pristine areas in Hawai`i. Despite the high quality native forests that occur in parts of the area, only a few native bird species are left on Moloka`i due to the high prevalence of diseases carried by alien mosquitoes. The area includes the upper elevations of Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Olokui and Pu`u Ali`i State Natural Area Reserves, most of the Moloka`i State Forest Reserve, Kamakou and Pelekunu Nature Conservancy Preserves, and a small amount of private land.

Key Biodiversity The Molokai Forests Important Bird Area is the last possible refuge for two extremely rare endemic forest birds, the Oloma`o (Myadestes lanaiensis) and the Kakawahie or Moloka`i Creeper (Paroreomyza flammea). Both of these species may be extinct, but if they still survive it is somewhere within the Molokai Forests IBA. Their status cannot be known with certainty until the most remote areas of Moloka`i have been adequately searched, particularly the Olokui Plateau. The Oloma`o has not been observed since 1988 and the Kakawahie has not been observed since 1963 (USFWS 2006). The Oloma`o formerly occurred on Lana`i but is extinct there. A small number of `I`iwi, a species of global conservation concern, persist in forests at the highest elevations on the Olokui Plateau Natural Area Reserve and the Kamakou Nature Conservancy Preserve. `Apapane (Himatione sanguinea) and Common (or Hawai`i) `Amakihi (Hemignathus virens wilsoni) are fairly common and widespread in many forested areas, even reaching into the lowlands in some locations, though these species have global distributions restricted to the Hawaiian Islands. A small population of the endangered Nene or Hawaiian Goose (Branta sandvicensis) has been reintroduced to the island through release of captive-bred birds at lower elevations on the eastern end of the island that are outside the IBA. Though still small, this population is thriving and appears to be increasing in number and distribution and may soon expand into the Molokai Forests IBA. Hawaiian Petrels (Pterodroma sandwichensis), an endangered species endemic to the Hawaiian islands, have been heard on Moloka`i and are thought to nest there, though the number of birds and location of nesting colonies are unknown.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Hawaiian Petrel Pterodroma sandwichensis breeding  2007  present  poor  A1  Vulnerable 
Common Amakihi Hemignathus virens resident  1980  1,834 individuals  A2  Least Concern 
Iiwi Vestiaria coccinea resident  1980  80 individuals  good  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Apapane Himatione sanguinea resident  1980  27,868 individuals  A2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2009 high not assessed low
Poor - based on little, or potentially unreliable/unrepresentative, data

Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management plan exists but the management planning process has begun  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kalaupapa National Historical Park 4,340 protected area contained by site 4,340  
Kamakou Preserve Biological Reserve 1,123 protected area contained by site 1,123  
Moloka‘I Forest State Forest 53 protected area contained by site 53  
Olokui State Natural Area Reserve 656 protected area contained by site 656  
Pelekunu Preserve Biological Reserve 2,332 protected area contained by site 2,332  
Puu Alii State Natural Area Reserve 538 protected area contained by site 538  

Land ownership The majority of lands comprising the Moloka`i Forests IBA are owned by the State of Hawai`i (69%). These include 90% of the Moloka`i State Forest Reserve, all of the Olokui and Pu`u Ali`i Natural Area Reserves, the portion of Kalaupapa National Historical Park included in the IBA, and a portion (3%) of the Pelekunu Nature Conservancy Preserve. A small portion of the State lands on the southwestern edge of the Moloka`i Forest Reserve are specifically held by the State Department of Hawaiian Homelands. The Nature Conservancy owns 1.5% of the IBA, with their holding comprising 8% of their Pelekunu Preserve. Privately owned parcels comprise 30% of the IBA, including one parcel of the Moloka`i Forest Reserve, the Kamakou Nature Conservancy preserve which is owned by Moloka`i Ranch, and numerous parcels that comprise 89% of the Pelekunu Nature Conservancy Preserve.

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 99%
agriculture 1%

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Molokai Forests. Downloaded from on 29/11/2015

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