Story at a glance:
- The kiwikiu, better known as the Maui parrotbill, is critically endangered.
- Five of the seven rare bird species were killed in an epidemic of avian malaria brought by nonnative mosquitoes.
- A male bird was seen singing by itself on the slopes of the Haleakalā volcano.
The kiwikiu, better known as the Maui parrotbill, is critically endangered. However, this Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources spotted a living individual that had been presumed dead on the slopes of the Haleakalā volcano, SFGate reported.
In October 2019, scientists tried to translocate seven of the birds to Maui’s Nakula Natural Area Reserve. But five of the seven rare birds were killed in an epidemic of avian malaria brought by nonnative mosquitoes, and the remaining two birds were listed as dead.
All hope was almost lost until department researcher Zach Pezzillo heard a distinct song from a kiwikiu.
"I first heard what I thought might be a distant kiwikiu song," he said in a statement. "It then sang about ten times across a gulch in some koa trees. It dropped down into some kolea trees where it spent the next twenty minutes calling and actively foraging through the berries, bark and leaves."
After observing its leg, Pezzillo was able to positively identify the individual bird as one of those two missing kiwikius based on its distinct band.
"This bird has been exposed to disease, as the others were, and has somehow persevered," said Hanna Moucne of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. "This is an amazing sign of hope for the species as we still may have time to save them. ... This is a hopeful sign that a population of kiwikiu and other native forest birds could survive in restored landscapes in the future, especially without mosquitoes and disease."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to make it clear that the individual bird was thought to have been extinct, not the species.
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA