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Critically Endangered (CR)
Recent Nearby Sightings
The Akekee 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 Kauai where it is found in small numbers in higher elevations. Because of the unusual bill and similar size and shape, the Akekee and the Ākepa (Loxops coccineus) were for some time classified as a single species. This was eventually changed, because of the Akekees color, nesting behavior and calls.
The Akekee is a greenish-yellow bird with a black mask around the eye (especially prominent in the male) and a bluish bill, unlike the Ākepa, which is 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 Akekees call is softer than its relatives. The Akekee 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 Ākepa use tree cavities as their nest sites.
The Akekee is currently found only in the Waimea Canyon State Park, Alakai Wilderness Preserve and Kōkee State Park. It has been heading toward extinction because of its lack of tolerance to alteration of its habitat, which is based on mesic and wet forests, especially ōhia lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) trees.
The Akekee is threatened by the introduction of plants like the banana pōka (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 Akekee feeds will disappear from such areas, as they do not find their usual host plants anymore. Avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum) and fowlpox transmitted by accidentally introduced mosquitos continues to wreak havoc on the Akekee; this is the reason why these birds are hardly ever found anymore below 1,100 meters ASL, but only in higher regions where the mosquitoes do not occur yet. Forest clearing in different parts of the island of Kauai has caused a major loss of habitat of many birds. Conservation status for this species was updated to Critically Endangered in 2008 due to a rapid decrease in population over the last decade. Current population estimates are under 5,000 birds.