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Apapane

Himatione sanguinea

The ʻApapane (Himatione sanguinea) is a small, vibrant crimson bird, a Hawaiian honeycreeper that graces the islands with its presence. Adult ʻApapane are resplendent in their bright red plumage, accented with white undertail-coverts and lower abdomen feathers, and contrasted by black primaries and retrices. The juveniles, however, are a more subdued yellow-brown and gray, sharing the white plumage of adults, and over two years, they molt into the striking crimson of maturity. Males are slightly larger than females, weighing in at 16 grams compared to the females' 14.4 grams.

Identification Tips

When observing ʻApapane, look for their characteristic tail-up posture, which proudly displays their white feathers. This posture, combined with their size of approximately 13 cm in length, and the distinctive coloration, makes them quite recognizable. The males and females can be differentiated by their size, with males being marginally larger.

Habitat

ʻApapane are most commonly found in native mesic and wet forests, where they favor the canopies of ʻōhiʻa and koa trees. These habitats provide the resources necessary for their survival and are typically located at elevations above 4,100 feet, where disease pressure from mosquitoes is reduced.

Distribution

This species is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and is the most abundant and widely distributed honeycreeper. They inhabit the islands of Hawaiʻi, Maui, Lānaʻi, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi, and Oʻahu, with the majority of the population residing on the island of Hawaiʻi.

Behaviour

The ʻApapane are known for their frequent temporal and seasonal migrations in search of flowering ʻōhiʻa. They are social birds, often seen foraging in conspecific and mixed-species flocks. They do not forage on the ground but rather glean insects and spiders from leaves and small twigs in the canopy.

Song & calls

ʻApapane are enthusiastic vocalists, with a repertoire that includes squeaks, whistles, rasps, melodic trills, and clicking sounds. Their songs, which they perform from perches or in flight, are often a series of repeated phrases lasting 10-30 seconds.

Breeding

The breeding season commences between October and November, with a peak from February to June. Nests are typically located on the terminal branches of ʻōhiʻa trees, but can also be found in tree cavities and lava tubes. Females lay 1-4 eggs and incubate them for 13 days. Males do not visit the nest during incubation but will feed the female off-nest. Both parents feed the nestlings, and the young are dependent for less than four months.

Similar Species

The ʻApapane can be confused with other Hawaiian honeycreepers, but its bright crimson coloration and white undertail-coverts are distinctive.

Diet and Feeding

ʻApapane have a specialized diet, primarily nectar from ʻōhiʻa flowers, thanks to their tubular, brush-tipped tongues and decurved bills. They also consume insects and spiders, which they glean from the foliage in the canopy.

Conservation status

The ʻApapane is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. With an estimated population of over 1.5 million individuals, they are the most abundant honeycreeper species in Hawaii. However, they face threats from habitat loss, disease, and introduced species, including predators and competitors. Conservation efforts for other native Hawaiian birds also benefit the ʻApapane, with nature reserves and habitat restoration projects helping to protect their environment.

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Apapanes on Birda

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