Tag Archives: Hemignathus

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]

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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.

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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

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

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]

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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

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!  

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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

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

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].  

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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.  

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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)

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edited: 05.04.2018

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).  

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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.  

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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.  

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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]  

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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)

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edited: 05.04.2018