Tag Archives: Fringillidae

Rhodacanthis forfex James & Olson

Scissor-billed Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis forfex)

The Scissor-billed Koa Finch is known only by subfossil remains, found on the islands of Kaua’i and Maui, the species clearly also occurred on the islands in between.

The species disappeared shortly after the arrival of the first human settlers on the Hawaiian Islands.

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References:

[1] Helen F. James; Storrs L. Olson: The diversity and biogeography of koa-finches (Drepanidini: Rhodacanthis), with descriptions of two new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 144: 527-541. 2005

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edited: 07.10.2020

Rhodacanthis palmeri Rothschild

Greater Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis palmeri)

The Greater Koa Finch, named hopue by the native Hawaiians, was already nearly extinct when it was discovered by European ornithologists.

The species originally inhabited dry lowland forests that were dominated by the endemic koa acacias (Acacia koa A. Gray) whose seed pods and seeds apparently were its main food source, it furthermore fed on the seeds of the native ‘a’ali’i (Dodonaea viscosa Jacq.) and caterpillars. Most of the lowland forests had already been destroyed by the Hawaiian natives long before the first European settlers arrived, and the finches were restricted to the small remains in the northern Kona District in the western part of Hawai’i.

***

When alive, Greater Koa Finch was by far the largest of the Hawaiian endemic drepanidine finches; it reached a size of 23 cm; the males had bright scarlet-orange heads and breasts, while the females were more or less completely plain green colored.

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References:

[1] H. Douglas Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’

(public domain)

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edited: 07.10.2020

Hemignathus affinis ssp. ‘Moloka’i’

Molokai Nukupuu (Hemignathus affinis ssp.)

The Maui Nukupuu (Hemignathus affinis Rothschild) was historically known only from the island of Maui, yet, this species or at least a very closely related one also once inhabited the neighboring island of Moloka’i – and very likely also Lana’i.:

A fossil almost certainly of this species [Hemignathus lucidus Lichtenstein] was also recovered from sand dune deposits on Molokai.” [1]

***

Given the fact that the Amakihi (Hemignathus virens (Gmelin)) is known to have inhabited the island of Hawai’i (with the nominate form) as well as the islands of Lana’i, Maui, and Moloka’i (with another subspecies), it is quite certain that the Molokai Nukupuu was identical with the Maui species, perhaps even on subspecific level.

***

All species formerly known as Nukupuu are now extinct.

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References:

[1] Storrs Olson & Helen F. James: Nomenclature of the Hawaiian Akialoas and Nukupuus (Aves: Drepanidini). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 108(3): 373-387. 1995

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edited: 09.10.2020

Rhodacanthis flaviceps Rothschild

Lesser Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis flaviceps)

The Lesser Koa Finch was already almost extinct when it was discovered by European ornithologists in 1892; it was only found only once, in its type locality, a place called Pu’u Lehua in the lowlands of the northern Kona District almost in the middle of the western coast of Hawai’i.

It was found in mixed flocks with Greater Koa-Finches (Rhodacanthis palmeri Rothschild) feeding on the seeds of koa acacias (Acacia koa A. Gray), eight specimens were taken back than by bird collectors, which did not recognize that they were dealing with two distinct species at that time. [1]

***

The species reached a size of about 19 cm; males had bright yellow heads and bellies, while females were nearly completely green colored. [1]

***

The Lesser Koa-Finch was never found again since so was probably extinct already shortly after. [1]

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References:

[1] H. Douglas Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’ 

(public domain)

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edited: 07.10.2020

Fringillidae gen. & sp. ‘Kaua’i’

Additional Kauai Finch (Fringillidae gen. & sp.)

This is a form of drepanidine finch that is still only insufficiently known, its very fragmenary remains were recovered from the deposits of the the Makawehi Dunes on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.

These remains consist only of the caudal part of a mandibular ramus, differing from all other Hawaiian finch species, alive or extinct.

The form is currently known only as ‘Additional Kauai Finch’, it might have been a Psittirostra sp.. [1]

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 06.11.2020

Orthiospiza howarthi James & Olson

Maui Upland Finch (Orthiospiza howarthi)

The Maui Highland Finch aka. Maui Upland Finch was described in 1991 based on subfossil remains that had been collected from cave deposits on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands.

When alive, the species appears to have been restricted to higher elevations, its remains were never found in lowland deposits. [1]

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 29.04.2022

Rhodacanthis litotes James & Olson

Primitive Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis litotes)

The Primitive Koa Finch was described in 2005 based on subfossil remains that were found on the islands of Maui and O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands, the species clearly also occurred on the islands in between.

At least on Maui the species occurred in sympatry with another closely related species, the Scissor-billed Koa Finch (Rhodacanthis forfex James & Olson), a constellation which is known also from the island of Hawai’i, where two other congeneric species, the Lesser- (Rhodacanthis flaviceps Rothschild) and the greater Koa-Finch (Rhodacanthis palmeri Rothschild) formed mixed flocks feeding together.

The primitive Koa-Finch aka. Oahu Koa-Finch disappeared before the first Europeans arrived on the Hawaiian Islands. 

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References:

[1] Helen F. James; Storrs L. Olson: The diversity and biogeography of koa-finches (Drepanidini: Rhodacanthis), with descriptions of two new species. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 144: 527-541. 2005

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edited: 07.10.2020

Ciridops anna (Dole)

Ula Ai Hawane (Ciridops anna)

The Ula Ai Hawane was described in 1879, the species is historically known for certain only from the island of Hawai’i, however, it is possible that two of the five existing specimens were collected on the island of Moloka’i (these two are of a supposed female and a likewise supposed immature male (see depiction below)). [2]

The species reached a size of about 11 to 12 cm; the males had a light grey head and neck, a black breast and a bright red rump, the wings were black and red as well, with the outer webs of the tertials white; the females were olive green and brown in color. [4]

Since the only two specimens that possibly come from Moloka’i differ from the other three, they might as well be interpreted as a distinct subspecies. 

***

The Hawaiian name ʻula-ʻai-hāwane means “red eating hawane”, hawane are the fruits of the endemic lo’ulu palms (Pritchardia spp.). The birds were only ever found near the lo’ulu palms and are thought to have fed on their flowers and fruits or perhaps on insects hiding in the leaf axilles. [3]

***

Subfossil remains found on Moloka’i were also assigned to this species, however, it is definitely possible that the Moloka’ian birds differed from the Hawaiians at the subspecies level. [1]

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991
[2] Storrs L. Olson: William T. Brigham’s Hawaiian birds and a possible historical record of Ciridops anna (Aves: Drepanidini) from Molokai. Pacific Scenice 46(4): 495-500. 1992
[3] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford University Press 2005
[4] Storrs L. Olson: History, structure, evolution, behaviour, distribution, and ecology of the extinct Hawaiian genus Ciridops (Fringillidae, Carduelini, Drepanidini). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 124(4): 651-674. 2012

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Depiction from: ‘Scott B. Wilson; A. H. Wilson; Frederick William Frohawk; Hans Gadow: Aves Hawaiienses: the birds of the Sandwich Islands. London: R. H. Porter 1890-1899’

(not in copyright)

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edited: 18.10.2020

cf. Chloridops sp.

Unassigned Maui Finch (cf. Chloridops sp.)

This form is known by a fragment of a cranium including the frontal and parts of the interoribital septum and maxilla, which where excavated from deposits of the Pu’u Naio Cave on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands.

This species was about the size of the Wahi Crosbeak (Chloridops wahi James & Olson), that is 13 to 14,5 cm, but probably was not a close relative of it.

***

There appear to exist remains of at least two additional finch forms in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., USA, that were collected on Maui and still await their description as soon as more material is found.

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 08.10.2020

Hemignathus sp. ‘Maui’

Maui Hoopoe-billed Akialoa (Hemignathus sp.)  

This species, so far undescribed, is known exclusively from subfossil bones, which were excavated on the island of Maui.  

The beak morphology of the Maui Hoopoe-billed Akialoa is similar to that of the Hoopoe-billed Akialoa (Hemignathus upupirostris James & Olson), but it was smaller. [1][2]  

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References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991 
[2] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford University Press 2005  

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edited: 08.04.2018

Aidemedia chascax James & Olson

Straight-billed Gaper (Aidemedia chascax 

The Straight-billed Gaper, described in 1991 based on subfossil remains, is known only from the island of O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands, where it lived sympatrically with another species of its genus, the Sickle-billed Gaper (Aidemedia zanclops James & Olson).  

These two species differed mainly in the shape and size of their beaks, and it is assumed that they may represent males and females of a single, sexually dimorphic species. [1]  

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References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991  

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edited: 22.03.2018

Vangulifer mirandus Olson & James

Kiwi Shovel-billed Finch (Vangulifer mirandus)

The Kiwi Shovel-billed Finch is one of the many bird species that were extirpated by the first humans arriving on the Hawaiian Islands and which are known only by subfossil remains.

***

The Kiwi Shovel-billed Finch had a very strange beak, it appeared to have been to long and to weak for seed cracking, to deep and to broad for probing, and too short for nectar feeding; it had a very bluntly rounded tip; the ventral surface and the lateral edges of the upper beak were richly supplied with blood vessels and apparently also with nerve endings, a characteristic which is otherwise only known in the Apterygiformes (Kiwis).

The bird obviously used its beak to detect its food, likely living creatures like insects and other invertebrates, in some kind of substrate.

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 04.10.2020

Viridonia sagittirostris Rothschild

Greater Amakihi (Viridonia sagittirostris)  

The so called Greater Amakihi, which is also known as Green Solitaire, was endemic to the island of Hawai’i, and was already restricted to a tiny area in the coastal rain forest of the Hamakua District in northeastern Hawai’i, when it was first discovered in 1892.  

The bird reached a size of about 17 cm, both sexes were mainly bright olive-green, with narrow black lores, the black beak was long, nearly straight, and sharp-pointed, the bases of the mandibles were light blue.  

Its food consisted mostly of insects, which the bird found while probing into bark crevices and leaf axils. [1]  

***

Even though the Greater Amakihi superficially resembles the Amakihi (Hemignathus virens (Gmelin)), both species are/were not closely related, the Greater Amakihi does not belong in the genus Hemignathus but is more closely related to the extinct genus Aidemedia. [1]  

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References:  

[1] H. Douglas Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005  

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’    

(public domain)

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edited: 24.09.2017

Melamprosops phaeosoma Casey & Jacoby

Poouli (Melamprosops phaeosoma)  

This species was described in 1974, it was restricted to higher elevations on the island of Maui, but subfossil remains show that it formerly was common all over the island.  

The Poouli reached a size of about 14 cm, it had a black face, a grey crown, the upperparts were brown, the under site was light brown to dusky white.  

The species fed on snails, spiders and insects.  

The Hawaiian name po’o-uli, which was given to the bird by its authors, literally means dark-headed. [1]  

***

This species is now extinct, what in fact could easily have been avoided if the efforts to save this species would have been started earlier.  

There were only three birds leftover in 1997, a male and two females; one of them, the male, was captured and taken to the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Olinda in an attempt to breed the bird in captivity, but it died shortly after (November 26th, 2004) on bird malaria.  

The enormous ignorance and incompetence of the persons in authority involved in this case is simply an unbelievable shame!  

The official red list of the IUCN still lists the Poouli as Critically Endangered, but the Poouli has gone forever.  

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References:  

[1] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005  

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Photo: Paul E. Baker (?); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  

(public domain)

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edited: 23.09.2017

Hemignathus ellisianus (Gray)

Oahu Akialoa (Hemignathus ellisianus)  

The Oahu Akialoa is known for a certainty on the basis of only two specimens, which were collected sometimes during the 1830s, when the species was already very close to extinction.  

The bird reached a size of about 19 cm.  

The species was known locally as ‘akialoa or kipi, the term ‘akia is a standardised term for green birds wird curved bills, loa, meaning large, regards to the large size of the bird, thus, the name of the bird can be translated as “Large Curve-billed Green Bird”.  The meaning of the term kipi, however, is not known to me.  

Other names were iiwi or iwi. [2]

***

The last confirmed sighting was in 1892, when Robert C. L. Perkins, the famous naturalist, who often was the last eyewitness for several of the drepanidid species, saw a pair in the Nu’uanu Valley, he shot one of the two birds, however, could not detect the unlucky fellow.:

However, on one occasion, I saw a pair of this species, the one chasing the other over a narrow ridge high up in the mountains. The leading bird passed over this ridge and down into the deep gulch on the other side, squeaking as it flew, the other alighted in an Ohia tree on the top of the ridge about 10 yards in front of me. The latter when I shot dropped over the steep edge and after much searching I was unable to find it. I distinctly nopticed the sombre plumage of the upper parts, which in no way approached the yellowe colour of the other species with which I was then familiar.” [2]

There are some subsequent records, yet not confirmed, dating to 1937, 1939 and 1940 respectively, indicating that the species may have survived for a while longer.  

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References:  

[1] R. C. L. Perkins: Notes on Collecting in Kona. The Ibis 6(5): 101-111. 1893 
[2] R. C. L. Perkins: Vertebrata. in: Fauna Hawaiiensis 1(4): 365-466. 1899-1913
[3] D. Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986 
[4] H. D. Pratt; P. L. Bruner; D. G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987 
[5] E. Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987 
[6] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005    

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’    

(public domain)

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edited: 09.10.2020

Chloridops kona Wilson

Kona Grosbeak (Chloridops kona)  

The Kona Grosbeak was discovered at the end of the 19th century, at that time it was restricted to a tiny, only about 10 km² large area in the north of the Kona district on the island of Hawai’i.  

This rather plump and inconspicuous looking bird fed almost exclusively on the dried seeds of the Naio tree (Myoporum sandwicense (A. Gray)), and could often be located by the cracking sound of its feeding.  

R. C. L. Perkins was one of the few people, that saw the bird in life, he wrote about it in the year 1893.:  

The Palila (Chloridops kona), though an interesting bird on account of its peculiar structure, is a singularly uninteresting one in its habits. It is a dull, sluggish, solitary bird, and very silent – its whole existence may be summed up in the words “to eat.” Its food consists of the seeds of the fruit of the aaka (bastard sandal-tree [Myoporum sandwicense (A. Gray)],and probably in other seasons of those of the sandal-wood tree), and as these are very minute, its whole time seems to be taken up in cracking the extremely hard shells of this fruit, for which its extraordinarily powerful beak and heavy head have been developed. I think there must have been hundreds of the small white kernels in those that I examined. The incessant cracking of the fruits when one of these birds is feeding, the noise of which can be heard for a considerable distance, renders the bird much easier to see than it otherwise would be. … I never heard it sing (once mistook the young Rhodacanthis’ song for that of Chloridops), but my boy informed me that he had heard it once, and its song was not like that of Rhodacanthis. Only once did I see it display any real activity, when a male and female were in active pursuit of one another amongst the sandal-trees. Its beak is nearly always very dirty, with a brown substance adherent to it, which must be derived from the sandal-tree.”  

Note, that the name Palila is actually the Hawaiian vernacular name for another drepanidine bird species – Loxioides bailleui (Oustalet).  The last living Kona Grosbeaks were seen in the year 1894.  

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References:  

[1] R. C. L. Perkins: Notes on Collecting in Kona. The Ibis 6(5): 101-111. 1893 
[2] D. Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986 
[3] H. D. Pratt; P. L. Bruner; D. G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987 
[4] E. Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987 
[5] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005  

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’    

(public domain)

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edited: 25.04.2017

Hemignathus upupirostris James & Olson

Hoopoe-billed Akialoa (Hemignathus upupirostris)  

The Hoppoe-billed Akialoa, so named for the structure of its beak, is known only on the basis of well-preserved subfossil remains that were found on the islands of Kaua’i and O’ahu, and which can apparently be assigned to one and the same species.  

The morphology of the beak shows that the bird had a quite short tongue, in contrast to the other historically known akialoa forms, which all had their tongues about as long as their beaks., thus the Hoopoe-billed Akialoa is thought to have had a somewhat distinct, possibly in some way specialized feeding behavior. [1][2]  

***

Subfossil remains of this, or a closely related form, are now known from other islands of the Hawaiian chain as well.  

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References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991 
[2] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005  

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edited: 21.09.2017

Hemignathus obscurus (Gmelin)

Lesser Hawaii Akialoa (Hemignathus obscurus 

The Lesser Hawaii Akialoa, so named for the fact that there was yet another closely related, but not yet described species occurred sympatrically on the island of Hawai’i, reached a size of about 17 cm, it was mainly olive-green, the sexes were quite similar. The bird had a somewhat elongated and down-curved beak.  

The bird inhabited probably all sorts of native forest, and used its beak to probe the bark of the trees for hidden insects and spiders, but sometimes took nectar from flowers, especially from the ‘ohia lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha Gaudich.).  

The clutch consisted, as in most ‘drepanidid birds’, of just one or two eggs. Thus, the reproduction rate was very low and the birds were incapable to compensate larger losses which happened after the introduction of cats and rats to the Hawai’i Islands.  The reasons for the extinction of this wonderful bird are the same as for all extinct ‘drepanidine‘ finches: habitat loss, alteration of the remaining habitat, introduction of cats and rats, introduction of deadly bird diseases, and – last but not least – the incredible incompetence of the Hawaiian government to save their unique wildlife!  

***

The Lesser Hawaii Akialoa is mentioned for the first time by Captain James Cook in 1979 in a text passage that gives an overview of the birdlife (also described for the first time) the crew of his ships met with on the island of Hawaii.:  

The birds of these islands are as beautiful as any we have seen during the voyage, and are numerous, though not various. There are four, which seem to belong to the trochili, or honey-suckers of Linnaeus; one of which is something larger than a bullfinch; its colour is a fine glossy black, the rump-vent and thighs a deep yellow. It is called by the natives hoohoo [Drepanis pacifica]. Another is of an exceeding bright scarlet colour; the wings black, and edged with white; and the tail black; its native name is eeeeve [Drepanis coccinea]. A third, which seems to be eighter a young bird, or a variety of the foregoing, is variegated with red, brown, and yellow. The fourth is entirely green, with a tinge of yellow, and is called akaiearooa [Hemignathus obscura].There is a species of thrush, with a grey breast [Myadestes obscurus]; and a small bird of the flycatcher kind [Chasiempis sandwichensis]; a rail, with very short wings and no tail, which, on that account, we named rallus ecaudatus [Zapornia sandwichensis]. Ravens are found here, but they are very scarce; their colour is dark brown, inclining to black; and their note is different from the European [Corvus hawaiiensis]. Here are to small birds, both of one genus, that are very common; one is red, and generally seen about the cocoa-nut trees, particularly when they are in flower, from whence it seems to derive great part of its subsistence [Himatione sanguinea]; the other is green [Hemignathus virens (?)]; the tongues of both are long and ciliated, or fringed at the tip. A bird with a yellow head, which, from the structure of its beak, we called a parroquet, is likewise very common. It, however, by no means belongs to that tribe, but greatly resembles the lexia flavicans, or yellowish cross-bill of Linnaeus [Psittirostra psittacea]. Here are also owls [Asio flammeus ssp. sandwichensis], plovers of two sorts, one very like the whistling plover of Europe; a large white pigeon [?]; a bird with a long tail, whose colour is black, the vent and feathers under the wing (which is much longer than is usually seen in the generality of birds, except the birds of paradise) are yellow [Moho nobilis]; and the common water or darker hen [Fulica alai].” [1]

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References:  

[1] The three voyages of Captain James Cook round the world. Complete in seven volumes. London: printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, Paternoster Row 1821 
[2] R. C. L. Perkins: Notes on Collecting in Kona. The Ibis 6(5): 101-111. 1893 
[3] D. Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986 
[4] H. D. Pratt; P. L. Bruner; D. G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987 
[5] E. Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987 
[6] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005  

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’    

(public domain)

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edited: 22.12.2014

Xestospiza fastigialis James & Olson

Ridge-billed Finch (Xestospiza fastigialis)

The species was described in 1991, together with numerous other endemic Hawaiian birds now extinct.

The Ridge-billed Finch was apparently very widespread, remains of the species were recovered from the islands of Maui, Moloka’i, as well as O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands, it very probably also inhabited the islands of Kaho’olawe and Lana’i, which, however, don’t have rich (sub)fossil deposits.

The species disappeared shortly after the arrival of the first Polynesian settlers on the Hawaiian Islands. [1]

***

The two species assigned to the genus Xestospiza most likely do not belong into the same genus. [2]

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991
[2] Helen F. James: The osteology and phylogeny of the Hawaiian finch radiation (Fringillidae: Drepanidini), including extinct taxa. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 141: 207-255. 2004

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edited: 19.06.2020

Drepanis funerea Newton

Black Mamo (Drepanis funerea)  

The Black Mamo was discovered in 1893 by Robert C. L. Perkins, a British ornithologist.  

The species is known historically only from the island of Moloka’i, but did occur in former times on the neighboring island of Maui as well, as is known from subfossil remains. [2]  

The species reached a size of 20 cm, it was completely black except for its outer wing feathers, which were silvery grey.  

The species certainly fed solely on nectar, especially that of the many endemic shrubby and tree-like lobelioid species.  

***

Some information about the habits of this species were made by William A. Bryan in 1907, when he collected the last specimen of this species.:  

Hopping from tree to tree, it worked its way around the head of the little side valley, up which it had come in answer to my call, to where a large purple-flowered lobelia was in profuse blossom, and began to feed. The ease and grace with which the feat was accomplished was indeed interesting, and left no doubt in my mind as to one of the probable causes of the remarkable development of the tongue and bill. The tongue was inserted with great precision, up to the nostrils, in the flower, while the bird balanced itself on the branches, assuming almost every imaginable attitude in its operations. In all three of the birds, secured, the crown was smeared with the sticky purplish white pollen of this lobelia.” [1]

***

The Hawaiians knew the bird as hoa. Another name that is sometimes assigned to this species is ‘o’o nuku’umu [‘o’o [with] beak sucking], a name of unknown origin that apparently was only ever used by Robert C. L. Perkins for unknown reasons. [1]  

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References:  

[1] W. A. Bryan: Some Birds of Molokai. Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 4(2): 43-86. 1908 
[2] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991 
[3] H. Douglass Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005  

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’    

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 24.09.2017

Paroreomyza maculata ssp. maculata (Cabanis)

Oahu Alauwahio (Paroreomyza maculata ssp. maculata)  

The Oahu Alauwahio was endemic to the island of O’ahu, Hawaiian Islands, where it formerly inhabited almost all wooded areas at all altitudes. Its population, however, broke down around 1890, and the species was since restricted to the higher elevations of the Ko’olau- and Wai’anae Mountains.  

The species reached a length of about 12 cm, males and females differed from each other in coloration.  

The Oahu Alauwahio was often observed in small family groups consisting of about six birds. Like its next living relative, the Maui Alauwahio (Paroreomyza montana ssp. newtoni (Rothschild)), it fed on insects and their larvae, which it searched for under the bark of dead branches.  

The last individuals were seen in 1985. [1][2]  

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References:  

[1] E. Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987 [2] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford University Press 2005  

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’    

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 23.03.2018

Aidemedia lutetiae James & Olson

Maui Nui Gaper (Aidemedia lutetiae 

This species was described in 1991 based on subfossil remains recovered from the Pu’u Makua- and Pu’u Naio Caves on the island of Maui, as well as from the Mo’omomi Dunes on Moloka’i.  

The species reached an estimated size of about 19 cm, it differed from its closest relative/relatives Aidemedia chascax/zanclops James & Olson by its shorter, very straight bill. [1]  

***

The Maui Nui Gaper was very probably somewhat like a larger version of the so called Greater Amakihi (Viridonia sagittirostris Rotschild) from the island of Hawai’i.  

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References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991  

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edited: 24.09.2017

Hemignathus sp. ‘Hawai’i’

Greater Hawaii Akialoa (Hemignathus sp.)  

This species, which up to day has neither been described nor named, is known from well-preserved subfossil remains of four birds, which were uncovered in 1992 from the Umi’i Manu Cave on the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch in the northwest of the island of Hawai’i. [1]  

The Greater Hawaii Akialoa was larger than the better known Lesser Hawaii Akialoa (Hemignathus obscurus (Gmelin)), and furthermore had a much longer beak, and thus was more like the other akialoa forms from the islands of Kaua’i, Lana’i, and O’ahu.  

This species was probably restricted to lowland areas and died out following the colonization by the first Polynesian settlers. [1]  

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References:  

[1] H. F. James; S. L. Olson: A giant new species of Nukupuu (Fringillidae: Drepanidini: Hemignathus) from the Island of Hawaii. Auk 120: 970-981. 2003  

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edited: 21.09.2017

Chloridops sp. ‚Kaua‘i‘

Kaua’i Grosbeak (Chloridops sp.)  

This species is known only from several subfossil remains that were recovered from the Makawehi Dunes on the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.  

The Kauai Grosbeak obviously was quite similar to the Wahi Grosbeak (Chloridops wahi James & Olson) from the island of O’ahu, but differed from that species by a broader lingual through in its mandible. [1]  

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References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991  

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edited: 24.09.2017

Hemignathus hanapepe (Wilson)

Kauai Nukupuu (Hemignathus hanapepe)  

The Kauai Nukupuu, often still treated as a subspecies of the Oahu Nukupuu (Hemignathus lucidusLichtenstein), was restricted to the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands.  

The species reached a size of about 15 cm, it was sexually dimorphic with the males having the head and underparts bright yellow, while the females were more or less completely olive-green [see depiction].  

***

In pre-human times, the Kauai Nukupuu occurred all over the island, including the lowland areas. The first Polynesian settlers deforested nearly all the lowland areas and converted them into agriculture land, thus destroying the habitat of most endemic lowland birds. Many of these birds disappeared completely, some managed to survive in areas at higher altitudes. Thus, the Kauai Nukupuu was restricted to higher elevations when it was discovered and described by western scientists.  

The last confirmed sightings were made sometimes in the 1890s, however, the species had certainly survived for about 100 years longer.  

The last remaining members of this species found their last refuge in the Alaka’i swamp area – together with some other last survivors, but they disappeared when mosquitos, carrying introduced deadly bird diseases, finally entered this remote area sometimes in the 1960s.  

*********************  

References:  

[1] Dieter Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986 
[2] H. Douglas Pratt, Phillip L. Bruner, Delwyn G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987 
[3] Errol Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987 [4] H. Douglass Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005  

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’    

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 05.04.2018

Dysmorodrepanis munroi Perkins

Lanai Hookbill (Dysmorodrepanis munroi)

The Lanai Hookbill was described in 1919 on the basis of a single specimen that was collected in 1913 by George Campbell Munro, a New Zealand-American botanist, entomologist, and ornithologist.

Mr. Munro’s notes give the following additions: – “Length six inches, sex not determined, the legs muscular with strong sinews, the jaw muscles more than usually developed, skull round almost like a marble, eyes large for the size of the bird, the iris dark brown, as also the upper mandible, the lower light brown, lighter beneath; legs light slate-colour, the soles of feet yellowish.”
Hab. Lanai. “This specimen, the only one of the species that I know of, was taken in the Kaiholena valley, Lanai, at an elevation of about 2000 ft. The stomach and throat were full of the ripe berries of Urera glabra, which is common in the locality” (Munro).
Mr. Munro, who has now for some years been permanently resident on Lanai, writes further that though he thoroughly explored the forest on thet island in the years 1914, 1915, 1916, and subsequently, he has only twice come across birds that he suspects of being the smae species as the one described. “On March 17th, 1916, further up the same valley, where it is very densely wooded, I heard two or three birds calling to one another, the cry being less sweet and not so loud as that of the Ou (Psittirostra), and I watched one on the bare branch of a tree-top a short distance away. It called regularely at intervals and kept moving its head, stretching its neck and turning on its perch without chanching its place on the branch. It looked smaller than an Ou and more active, but less so than Chlorodrepanis. The form of the bill could not be made out, but it was not that of the latter.”
“On Aug. 12th, 1918, in a patch of dry forest on the south-west side of the mountain, at about the same elevation as that where the original specimen was obtained, I saw another bird, and was near enough to note the light colouring round the eye, but not the form of the beak. Some of its notes were like those of Psittirostra, but others new to me, especially a low squeak or whistle, and it was too small for that bird, not so thick-set and with a very short tail. So I feel sure it was the other.”
” [1]

The native forests of Lana’i were almost completely destroyed at that time, and the birds seen by G. C. Munro very probably were the last surviving individuals of that species.

***

For some time this very enigmatic form was thought to represent an aberant female Ou (Psittirostra psittacea (Gmelin)), but was finally considered a distinct species in 1989 and is now widely accepted as such. [2]

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References:

[1] R. C. L. Perkins: On a new genus and species of bird of the family Drepanididae from the Hawaiian Islands. The Annals and Magazine of Natural History; Zoology, Botany, and Geology 9(3): 250-252. 1919
[2] Helen F. James; Richard L. Zusi; Storrs L. Olson: Dysmorodrepanis munroi (Fringillidae: Drepanidini), a valid genus and species of Hawaiian finch. The Wilson Bulletin 101(2): 159-367. 1989

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edited: 09.10.2020

Telespiza persecutrix James & Olson

Kauai Finch (Telespiza persecutrix)  

The Kauai Finch was described based on subfossil remains which were collected from deposits on the islands of Kaua’i and O’ahu in the Hawaiian Islands. 

This extinct species shared its habitat with the two still surviving species of the genus, the Laysan Finch (Telespiza cantans (Wilson)) (see photo) and the Nihoa Finch (Telespiza ultima (Bryan)). [1]

***

The Laysan Finch today is restricted to the island of Laysan in the far northwest of the Hawaiian Islands chain but was far more widespread in prehistorical times as is proven by finds of subfossil remains on the islands of Moloka’ and O’ahu, the same applies to the Nihoa Finch, which today only survives on the tiny island of Nihoa, but whose subfossil remains were also recovered from the island of Moloka’i. 

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References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991  

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Laysan Finch (Telespiza cantans)  

Photo: Kim Starr & Forest Starr; by courtesy of Kim Starr & Forest Starr  

http://www.starrenvironmental.com

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edited: 17.06.2020

Hemignathus affinis Rothschild

Maui Nukupuu (Hemignathus affinis)  

The drepanidine genus Hemignathus contains up to 16 species, depending on which author, which sometimes are named as ‚little green birds‘ colloquially, relating to the mainly olive green color of most of these species.  

The genus is divided into four subgenera; Akialoa (large species with unusual long, downwardly bent beaks), Chlorodrepanis (small species with short, slightly bent beaks), Hemignathus (species with strongly downwardly bent beaks and the maxillary about twice the length of the mandibular beak), and Viridonia (a single species with a straight beak, actually not closely related to the other species).  

***

The Hawaiian name Nukupu’u literally means ‚nose [formed like a] hill‘ and relates to the form of the beak; the three species named as Nukupu’u (Hemignathus affinisHemignathus hanapepe Wilson, Hemignathus lucidus Lichtenstein) all shared downwardly bent beaks with a maxillary about twice as long as the mandibular beak. The birds used these strange beaks to probe the crevices of tree bark for insects and insect larvae.  

***

The Maui Nukupuu was last seen in 1967 in the Kipahulu Valley in the southeastern part of Maui – since then the species is considered extinct.  

***

The Maui Nukupuu, respectively perhaps a subspecies of it, is known also from subfossil remains found on the island of Moloka’i, Maui’s neighbor. [5][6]  

*********************  

References:  

[1] W. E. Banko: Rediscovery of Maui Nukupuu, Hemignathus lucidus affinis, and Sighting of Maui Parrotbill, Pseudonestor xanthophrys, Kipahulu Valley, Maui, Hawaii. Condor 70: 265-266. 1968 
[2] D. Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986 
[3] H. D. Pratt; P. L. Bruner; D. G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987 
[4] E. Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987 
[5] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991 
[6] Storrs L. Olson; Helen F. James: A specimen of Nuku pu’u (Aves: Drepanidini: Hemignathus lucidus) from the island of Hawai’i. Pacific Science 48(4): 331-338. 1994 
[7] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005 
[8] J. P. Hume; M. Walters: Extinct Birds. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2012  

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Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’  

(public domain)

*********************

edited: 05.04.2018

Xestospiza conica James & Olson

Cone-billed Finch (Xestospiza conica)

This species, which was endemic to the island of Kaua’i, Hawaiian Islands, was described in 1991 based on two maxillae that were fumbled out of subfossil pellets that were left behind by the likewise extinct Kauai Stilt Owl (Grallistrix auceps James & Olson).

The Cone-billed Finch was perfectly named for the shape of its beak. 

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References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991

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edited: 29.05.2019

Chloridops wahi James & Olson

Wahi Grosbeak (Chloridops wahi)  

This species was described in 1991 from subfossil bones that were recovered from the Pu’u Naio Cave on Maui, as well as from Barber’s Point at the southwestern tip of O’ahu, and from the crater deposits at Ulupau Head, Mokapu Peninsula on the southeastern coast of O’ahu.  

The species certainly inhabited the islands of Kaho’olawe, Lana’i, and Moloka’i as well.  

The Wahi Grosbeak was closely related to the Kona Grosbeak (Chloridops kona Wilson), but was smaller, reaching a size of about 13 to 14,5 cm. [1]  

***  

The birds may have fed on the very hard seeds of the Hawaiian endemic a’e trees (Zanthoxylon spp.), whose subfossil seeds were found in the same deposits. [2]  

*********************  

References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991 
[2] Storrs L. Olson:  A hard nut to crack: rapid evolution in the Kona Grosbeak of Hawaii for a locally abundant food source (Drepanidini: Chloridops kona). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 126(1): 1-8. 2014  

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edited: 30.10.2017

Vangulifer neophasis James & Olson

Pololei Shovel-billed Finch (Vangulifer neophasis)

The Pololei Shovel-billed Finch, also known as Thin-billed Finch, is one of the countless Hawaiian endemic birds that were extirpated already by the first Polynesian settlers shortly after they set foot on the Hawaiian Islands.

The species was described in 1991 based on subfossil bones recovered from the Pu’u Naio Cave on the island of Maui.

The Pololei Shovel-billed Finch was a highly specialized, somewhat flycatcher-like bird that probably was adapted for catching insects on wing. [1]

***

The species is not that closely related to its congener, the Kiwi Shovel-billed Finch (Vangulifer mirandus Olson & James) and both species should better be placed in distinct genera.

*********************

References:

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991
[2] Helen F. James: The osteology and phylogeny of the Hawaiian finch radiation (Fringillidae: Drepanidini), including extinct taxa. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 141: 207-255. 2004

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edited: 03.10.2020

Telespiza aff. ypsilon ‘Maui’

Lua Lepo Finch (Telespiza sp.)

The Lua Lepo Finch is most likely an undescribed species closely related to the Maui Nui Finch (Telespiza ypsilon James & Olson), it also is known from the island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands, yet apparently inhabited the higher elevations while the other species was mainly a lowland species. 

The Lua Lepo Finch differed from its congener by being about 22% smaller. [1]

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Referenzen:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991  

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edited: 17.06.2020

Telespiza sp. ‘Owl Cave’

Owl Cave Finch (Telespiza sp.)

This species has not been described so far, it is known from at least a partial associated skeleton found in a cave named Owl Cave on the island of Hawai’i in the Hawaiian Islands. [1]

*********************

References:

[1] Helen F. James: The osteology and phylogeny of the Hawaiian finch radiation (Fringillidae: Drepanidini), including extinct taxa. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 141: 207-255. 2004

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edited: 17.06.2020

Ciridops sp. ‚O’ahu‘

Oahu Palmcreeper (Ciridops sp.)  

This form is known only from subfossil remains collected at Barber’s Point on the island of O’ahu.  

The Oahu Palmcreeper probably reached a size of about 12 cm, it was quite like the Ulaaihawane (Ciridops anna (Dole)) from Hawai’i and Moloka’i, but was slightly smaller and had an even more plump body structure. [1]  

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References:  

[1] S. L. Olson; H. F. James: Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part II. Passeriformes. Ornithological Monographs 45: 1-91. 1991  

*********************  

edited: 24.09.2017

Psittirostra psittacea (Gmelin)

Ou (Psittirostra psittacea)

 

The Ou was described in 1789; it was already mentioned in an enumeration of birds found on the island of Hawai’i during Cook’s last voyage.

Originally, the species inhabited all of the Hawaiian main islands where it originally was very common and widespread, the birds undertook wide wanderings, likely even between islands, to exploit seasonally available food resources. They generally fed on fruits, mainly of the native ‘ie’ie (Freycinetia arborea Gaudich.) but they also fed upon insects

The species reached a size of about 17 cm; it showed a marked sexual dimorphism; both sexes were generally olive-green, had pink legs and feet and beaks, but the males had a bright yellow head.

The Hawaiian name of the bird was ‘ō’ū. [1]

***

The last populations of the Ou survived on the islands of Hawai’i, where they were last seen in 1987 in the Ōla’a area and on Kaua’i, where they finally were last seen in 1989 on the Alaka’i plateau; no real efforts had been undertaken to save the last populations. [1]

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References:

[1] H. Douglas Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005

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Depiction from: ‘Scott B. Wilson; A. H. Wilson; Frederick William Frohawk; Hans Gadow: Aves Hawaiienses: the birds of the Sandwich Islands. London: R. H. Porter 1890-1899’

(not in copyright)

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edited: 01.08.2022

Carduelis sp. ‘Madeira’

Madeiran Finch (Carduelis sp.)  

This species is known only from a few subfossil bone remains, but has currently not been described.  

***

In T. Edward Bowdich’s and Sarah Bowdich Lee’s ‘Excursions in Madeira and Porto Santo, during the autumn of 1823, while on his third voyage to Africa’ is a description of a finch-like bird – together with a sketch of the head of this bird – according to which it had a blackish plumage and a bluish colored head. If this description is about the same bird that is covered here, or if this is about a completely different species, I am unable to say at present.  

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References:  

[1] Harald Pieper: The fossil land birds of Madeira and Porto Santo. Bocagiana 88: 1-6. 1985  

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(?)

Depiction from: ‘T. Edward Bowdich; Sarah Bowdich Lee: Excursions in Madeira and Porto Santo, during the autumn of 1823, while on his third voyage to Africa. London: G. B. Whittaker 1825’  

(public domain)

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edited: 12.03.2011