The Po’ouli is an endangered bird found on the north-eastern slopes of Haleakala on the island of Maui. Po’ouli means “dark head” and is otherwise known as the Black Faced Honeycreeper.
The discovery of the Po’ouli was in 1973 by three students from the University of Hawaii. The students found this small bird in the Hana rainforest. The bird, upon further study, is said to belong to an ancient lineage of honeycreepers.
The Po’ouli, a stocky bird, is only about 5 ½ inches long. The cheeks and breast are white in color tapering down into a light red-brown. The top of the head is grey in color and tapers down into a dark brown.
The Po’ouli spends a great deal of its time in the under story and brush of the rainforest. It is most difficult to detect when in its natural environment. It is a very secretive bird that is usually seen before it’s even heard and its song is very quiet.
All of the birds were found in the upper elevations of the rainforests, from 4,650-6,680 feet. The areas receive about 350 inches of rain per year. Fossil remains that have been found, indicate that the bird was previously more widespread.
Much of its diet is made up of insects and spiders. It is also said that it is the only Hawaiian forest bird that eats tree snails.
The nests of the Po’ouli are made up of twigs and mosses that are located in the branches of the ‘ohi’a trees. The nests that have been observed have contained 1-2 chicks. The months of the nesting periods are said to be during the months of April – June.
Sadly, not much is known about this beautiful bird.
When first discovered there were believed to be around 200 birds left. A combination of occurrences and threats has devastated an already critical number.
Some of the worst problems that these birds face is the threat of avian diseases such as malaria and pox virus. The black rat, a native in the forest, is also a serious problem for the Po’ouli. The destruction of their habitat and reintroduction of other birds also made the Po’ouli survival rate drop considerably.
In 1997-1998, three birds were captured and had color bands placed on them before their release. On Sept. 9, 2004 members of the Maui Forest Bird Conservation Center captured one of the only three birds they had tagged.
Their efforts to plan captive breeding were crushed when the female bird died of malaria on Nov. 26, 2004.
To date all that scientists believe remain of the Po’ouli are one male and one female that have not been seen in over a year. The two remaining birds are at least seven years old and are nearing the end of their reproductive lifespan.
It is unknown whether or not the two remaining birds are even alive. Despite best efforts, the Po’ouli are critically endangered and are, quite possibly, already extinct.
Find out more about the Po’ouli over at Wikipedia »