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Akekee

Loxops caeruleirostris

The ʻAkekeʻe, known scientifically as Loxops caeruleirostris, is a small bird with a distinctive greenish-yellow plumage and a striking black mask encircling its eyes, more pronounced in males. Its bill is a notable bluish hue, with the tips slightly crossed, reminiscent of scissors, though not as pronounced as in the crossbills.

Identification Tips

When observing the ʻAkekeʻe, look for its unique bill structure, which it adeptly uses to snip open buds in search of insects. The male's black facial mask is a key feature for identification, setting it apart from similar species.

Habitat

The ʻAkekeʻe is endemic to Kauaʻi and is found in mesic and wet forests, particularly favoring the ʻōhiʻa lehua trees. Its current range is restricted to higher elevations within Waimea Canyon State Park, Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve, and Kōkeʻe State Park.

Distribution

This bird is a Kauaʻi island endemic, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. Its presence is confined to the aforementioned protected areas on the island.

Behaviour

The ʻAkekeʻe is known for its specialized feeding technique, using its crossed bill to access food sources. It constructs nests high in the canopy, primarily from twigs, differing from the cavity-nesting behavior of the ʻakepa.

Song & calls

The ʻAkekeʻe's calls are distinct from those of the ʻakepa, contributing to their classification as separate species. Their vocalizations are an important aspect of their identity and behavior.

Breeding

This species builds twig nests high in the trees, a notable difference from the ʻakepa, which opts for tree cavities.

Similar Species

The ʻAkekeʻe was once considered conspecific with the ʻakepa due to their similar size and shape. However, the ʻakepa typically sports red, canary-yellow, or orange plumage without a black mask and has a horn-colored bill, unlike the ʻAkekeʻe.

Diet and Feeding

The ʻAkekeʻe's diet consists of insects, which it extracts from buds using its scissor-like bill. It also feeds on nectar from certain trees.

Conservation status

The ʻAkekeʻe is classified as Critically Endangered, with a population that has been in rapid decline. Estimates from 2021 suggest fewer than 638 individuals remain in the wild. The species faces imminent extinction by 2028 if current trends continue and mosquito control efforts are not implemented. Only a handful of captive individuals exist, and the species does not fare well in captivity. Conservation strategies emphasize the need for landscape-scale mosquito control using innovative methods like Wolbachia.

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Akekees on Birda

Sightings
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Profile picture for Lucas Corneliussen
Lucas Corneliussen
22 Dec 2022 - 6:00am
United States

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