Challenges and Approaches for Conserving Hawaii’s Endangered Forest Birds

  • Thomas B. Smith
  • Steven G. Fancy


Although the Hawaiian Islands exhibit a rich diversity of birds, with especially high rates of endemism, the avian diversity is only a small fraction of what the archipelago once supported. In fact, it is estimated that over two thirds of Hawaii’s forest bird species have gone extinct since human contact (Freed, Conant, and Fleisher 1987; Jacobi and Atkinson 1994). Few faunas on Earth and no other island avifauna have experienced as many recent extinctions or include as many endangered species. In total, 21 of the 59 historically known species and subspecies of Hawaiian birds have gone extinct in the last 150 years and most of those remaining are threatened (Pyle 1990). Interestingly, it is not only contact with “modern” western Europeans that caused extinctions, but as fossils suggest, it is also contact with Polynesians that began 15 centuries ago (Olsen and James 1982). Current threats to Hawaiian birds are especially acute (Table 12.1), and we risk losing perhaps the most celebrated example of adaptive radiation in any vertebrate, the Hawaiian honeycreepers, finches in the subfamily Drepanidinae (Freed, Conant, and Fleisher 1987). Honeycreepers are believed to be derived from a single colonization event (Johnson, Martin, and Ralph 1989) and are exceedingly diverse in morphology, coloration, and habits (Figure 12.1). In addition to the honeycreepers, threatened forest species from three other passerine families occur in the archipelago: the Melaphagidae (honeyeaters), Corvidae (crows), and Muscicapidae (old world flycatchers and solitaires).


Hawaiian Island Forest Bird Avian Malaria Native Bird Captive Propagation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas B. Smith
  • Steven G. Fancy

There are no affiliations available

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