Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
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Akekee Picture

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The ?Akeke?e is a bird species in the family Fringillidae, where it is placed in the Hawaiian honeycreeper genus Loxops. It is endemic to the island of Kaua?i where it is found in small numbers in higher elevations. Because of the unusual bill and similar size and shape, the ?Akeke?e and the three ?Akepas were for some time classified as a single species. This was eventually changed, because of the ?Akeke?e's color, nesting behavior and calls.


The Akeke'e is a greenish-yellow bird with a black mask around the eye (especially prominent in the male) and a bluish bill, unlike the ?Akepas which are usually red, canary-yellow or orange, without black, and have horn-colored bills. Their bill-tips are crossed over, though not bent as in distantly-related Fringillidae the crossbills (Loxia). The ?Akeke?e's call is softer than its relatives.

The ?Akeke?e uses its bill like scissors to cut open buds in search of insects to eat. It also takes the nectar to certain trees as part of its diet. This bird creates nests from simple twigs while the ?Akepas use tree cavities as their nest sites.

The ?Akeke?e is today only found in the Waimea Canyon State Park, Alakai Wilderness Area and K?ke?e State Park. It has been heading toward extinction because of its lack of tolerance to alteration of its habitat.

For one thing, the ?Akeke?e is threatened by the introduction of plants like the banana p?ka (Passiflora tarminiana), a passionflower vine, that displace the native plants. Feral pigs and feral goats also destroy native growth. Eventually, the insects on which the ?Akeke?e feeds will disappear from such areas, as they do not find their usual host plants anymore. Plasmodium relictum avian malaria and fowlpox transitted by accidentially introduced mosquitos continues to wreak havoc on the ?Akeke?; this is the reason why these birds are hardly ever found anymore below 1,100 meters ASL, but only in higher regions where the mosquitos do not occur yet. Forest clearing in different parts of the island of Kaua?i has caused a major loss of habitat of many birds.

Formerly classified as an Endangered species by the IUCN, recent research shows that its numbers are decreasing more and more rapidly and that it is on the brink of extinction. It is consequently uplisted to Critically Endangered status in 2008.


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