This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small declining range, confined to one upland area where it is at risk from the effects of hurricanes and exotic taxa, including predators and disease.
AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and population
13 cm. Quiet bark-picker with conical, slightly downcurved bill. Adult grey-brown above, white below with pink bill and feet. Juvenile has bold white eye-ring. Similar spp. Female Kaua'i Nukupu'u Hemignathus lucidus hanapepe greener above with yellow tinges around face. 'Elepaio Chasiempis sandwichensis has white rump, tail tip, and wing spots. Voice Song a short, descending trill. Call a simple weet. Juveniles following adults utter stuttering series of short notes chit-chit, chi-chi-chit, chit. Hints Forages slowly along trunks and branches, occasionally among flowers. Found in low numbers along Alaka'i Swamp Trail near Koke'e.
This species was common and widely distributed in the 1890s on Kaua'i in the Hawaiian Islands (U.S.A.
). During 1968-1973, the total population was estimated at 6,832 (±966 standard error), when it was recorded on the Laau ridge and was fairly widespread in Koke'e (USFWS 1983)
. Since then, the population has declined and the species has retreated from the Koke'e region and the fringes of the Alaka'i region, and is now uncommon to rare in the Alaka'i (Pratt et al.
1987, Pratt 1993,
. Recent unpublished survey data indicate dramatic declines (85-89% since 1968-1973) and a decline of c. 64% in its core area in the Alaka'i Swamp from 1970 to 2000 (Anon 2007)
. The population was estimated to number 1,312 ± 530 birds, based on surveys conducted in April and May 2007 (Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and USGS, unpublished.data)
, occupying an area of just 36 km2
(Foster et al
. The most recent estimates from 2012 suggest the population has decreased further to 468 individuals (231-916, 95% CI) (L. Crampton et al
. in litt
. 2015).Population justification
The most recent population estimate from 2012 is 468 individuals (231-916, 95% CI) (L. Crampton et al
. in litt
. 2015). This equates to approximately 150-610 mature individuals.Trend justification
The population has declined dramatically since the 1960s and this trend appears to be continuing owing to a number of threatening processes. Consequently, the population is estimated to be declining very rapidlyEcology
It is found in high-elevation 'ohi'a and koa-'ohi'a forest, but the latter is mainly distributed in the Koke'e region, from where it is retreating (USFWS 1983, Scott et al
1986, Pratt 1993)
. The Alaka'i stronghold is at 1,000-1,600 m. However, the 1968-1973 surveys found the species at lower altitudes in a few areas, and it may not occur above 1,500 m (USFWS 1983, Scott et al
. It feeds on invertebrates (Scott et al
1986, Pratt et al.
, and has been observed excavating rotting wood from the centre of a twig, presumably for insect larvae (VanderWerf and Roberts 2008)
. Both parents have been observed bringing food to the nest, with the male providing some food for the female, though the female does also forage independently. A nesting pair in 2007 had a juvenile from a previous nest, indicating the species will attempt to raise two broods (VanderWerf and Roberts 2008)
Lowland forests have been cleared for timber and agriculture, with feral livestock causing further degradation and destruction (USFWS 1983, Scott et al.
. Feral pigs continue to be particularly detrimental, additionally dispersing alien plants and facilitating the spread of introduced mosquitoes which transmit avian malaria and avian pox (Scott et al
1986, Pratt 1994, Loope and Medeiros 1995)
. Domestic and introduced birds provide reservoirs for these diseases, to which there is little resistance in Hawaiian honeycreeper populations (USFWS 1983, Scott et al
1986, Pratt 1994, Lepson 1997)
. Predation by introduced animals and competition for arthropod resources by introduced taxa (especially Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus
, wasps and ants) are additional threats (USFWS 1983, Scott et al
1986, Jacobi and Atkinson 1995, Lepson 1997)
. Introduced plants such as Kahili Ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum
), Blackberry (Rubus argutus
), Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleianum
), Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea cooperi
) and Firetree (Myrica faya
) have degraded much native forest in Koke'e, and threaten the remaining habitat.
Hurricanes have had major impacts on population size in the past; in 1992 Hurricane Iniki devastated forests throughout Kaua'i, and all bird populations on the island appeared to have been drastically reduced (Pratt 1993, 1994)
, although some have since recovered. Hurricanes are now thought to displace birds from the small area of suitable habitat at altitude and push them into the lowlands where avian malaria is prevalent (Anon. 2007)
. A growing concern is that rising temperatures could allow mosquitoes to survive at higher altitudes and further transmit avian malaria and avian pox (Anon. 2007) as evidenced by a recent study; over the past two decades there has been a significant increase in the prevalence of avian malaria across the altitudinal range of the Alaka'i Plateau, which coincides with increasing air temperatures and changing patterns of precipitation and streamflow which support increased transmission of the disease (Atkinson et al.
2014) and having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data)
. Conservation and Research Actions Underway
It occurs within the Alaka'i Wilderness Preserve but has declined dramatically within this area. The Zoological Society of San Diego is developing techniques for rearing Oreomystis
creepers from eggs and breeding them in captivity, using the related Hawai'i Creeper, at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (USFWS 2003)
. The Hawai'i Creeper has been successfully propagated in captivity, and release of the captive population is planned (USFWS 2003, P. Roberts in litt
. A captive breeding programme for Akikiki was started in 2015, as a collaboration between Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project, State Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Forestry and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office and San Diego Zoo Global (Buley 2015, L. Crampton et al. in litt
. 2015). Eggs are harvested from wild nests and the chicks hatched at San Diego Zoo Global's facilities in Hawaii (Buley 2015).
Starting in April 2007, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources conducted population surveys of forest birds on Kaua'i to determine trends which were being analysed in late 2007. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2005 that the Akikiki should be officially designated an endangered species. It had been a candidate species since 1994 and was again proposed in 2007 (Vanderwerf and ABC 2007)
. In 2010 it was added to the endangered species list (Foote 2010).
The Kaua'i Watershed Alliance and The Nature Conservancy are considering fencing the north-eastern section of the Alakai Plateau on Kaua'i where the species was last recorded to exclude herbivores and possibly other predators. Rodent control has been initiated, with preliminary results suggesting rat numbers have declined (L. Crampton et al. in litt
. 2015). Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Key priority actions to conserve the species were recently identified: develop a captive breeding population, control rodents, provide supplementary food, locate and control sources of mosquito populations and habitat management (L. Crampton et al
. in litt
. 2015). Protect the Alaka'i Wilderness Preserve from the invasion of introduced plants and feral ungulates (Scott et al
, and restore degraded areas. Continue to monitor its population status and distribution.
Anon. 2007. Next U.S. species to go extinct may be two Hawaiian birds - global warming heightens threat to their survival.
Atkinson, C. T., Utzurrum, R. B., Lapointe, D. A., Camp, R. J., Crampton, L. H., Foster, J. T. and Giambelluca, T. W. 2014. Changing climate and the altitudinal range of avian malaria in the Hawaiian Islands - an ongoing conservation crisis on the island of Kaua'i. Global Change Biology 20: 2426-2436.
Buley, B. 2015. Preventing extinction - Project aims to save endangered bird species on Kauai. The Garden Island. Available at: http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/preventing-extinction/article_03883aee-e408-11e4-9bc6-f74ac0c81df6.html. (Accessed: 13/08/2015).
Foote, K. 2010. 48 Kaua'i Species Protected Under Endangered Species Act - News Release. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Pacific Islands External Affairs Office, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Foster, J. T.; Tweed, E.J.; Camp, R.J.; Woodworth, B. L.; Adler, C.D.; Telfer, T. 2004. Long-term population changes of antive and introduced birds in the Alaka'i Swamp, Kaua'i. Conservation Biology 18: 716-725.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Jacobi, J. D.; Atkinson, C. T. 1995. Hawaii's endemic birds. In: LaRoe, E.T. (ed.), Our living resources: a report to the nation on the distribution, abundance, and health of US plants, animals, and ecosystems, pp. 376-381. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Service, Washington, D.C.
Lepson, J. K. 1997. 'Anianiau (Hemignathus parvus). In: Poole, A.; Gill, F. (ed.), The birds of North America, No. 312, pp. 1-16. The Academy of Natural Sciences and The American Ornithologists' Union, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
Loope, L. L.; Medeiros, A. C. 1995. Strategies for long-term protection of biological diversity in rainforests of Haleakala National Park and East Maui, Hawaii. Endangered Species Update 12: 1-5.
Pratt, H. D. 1993. Enjoying birds in Hawaii: a birdfinding guide to the fiftieth state. Mutual Publishing, Honolulu.
Pratt, H. D. 1994. Avifaunal change in the Hawaiian Islands, 1893-1993. Studies in Avian Biology 15: 103-118.
Pratt, H. D.; Bruner, P. L.; Berrett, D. G. 1987. A field guide to the birds of Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Scott, J. M.; Mountainspring, S.; Ramsey, F. L.; Kepler, C. B. 1986. Forest bird communties of the Hawaiian Islands: their dynamics, ecology, and conservation. Cooper Ornithological Society, California.
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1983. Kauai forest birds recovery plan. USFWS, Portland, USA.
VanderWerf, E. A.; American Bird Conservancy. 2007. Petition to list the Akikiki or Kauai Creeper (Oreomystis bairdi) and the Akekee or Kauai Akepa (Loxops caeruleirostris) as endangered or threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
VanderWerf, E. A.; Roberts, P. K. 2008. Foraging and nesting of the 'Akikiki or Kaua'i Creeper (Oreomystis bairdi). Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120(1): 195-199.
Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.
Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds 2006
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Derhé, M., Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Stuart, T., Symes, A., Wright, L & Ashpole, J
Camp, R., Fretz, S., Gorresen, M., Roberts, P., VanderWerf, E., Woodworth, B., Morrey, S., Laut, M., Behnke, L., Crampton, L., Paxton, E., Vetter, J. & Pejchar, L.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Oreomystis bairdi. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/11/2015.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/11/2015.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
Additional resources for this species