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the hawaiian  drepanididae

The Hawaiian Drepanididae
This family has suffered an incredible depredation in the Hawaiian Islands with 6 species and 4 subspecies suffering extinction in the last couple of centuries.

Layson Honeyeater (Himatiore sanquinea) Extinct since about 1923 when the last 3 specimens were seen by the Tanoger Exhibition of the US Biological Society. Several searches were made in the 30s and 40s, but no further birds were found. Their extinction was a result of habitat destruction resulting from the introduction of rabbits to Layson Island in 1903 for commercial reasons. The birds (redbirds as they were known) were endemic to Layson Island.

Ula-Ai-Hawane (Aridops anna) Extinct, an endemic to the island of Hawaii, the last specimen was caught on 20 February 1892 on Mount Kohala. This was a small finch-like bird predominantly black and grey in colouration, with a reddish rump. It lived in mountain forests.

3 species of Psittirostra (palmeri, flaviceps and kona) are presumed extinct - another 2 (Psittirostra psittacea and Psittirostra bailleui) are extremely rare and endangered. All have extremely solid, large seed-cracking beaks.

For Psittirostra palmeri the last reliable record is in 1896. It was found only in Koa forests of Hawaii at about 4000 feet elevation. It was the largest of the group measuring 8.5 inches long. The bird was easily recognised because of its colourful plumage, the male had a orange head, olive back, pale orange rump and yellow breast and belly - females similar except head yellow and back greener.

Psittirostra flaviceps. Extinct, another endemic to Hawaii, the last specimen was seen in October 1891. Physically the bird was similar to Psittirostra palmeri but smaller lived on the same Koa forests. It fed on seeds.

Psittirostra kora Extinct last seen in 1894 when they were already rare and restricted to an area about 4 miles square on the island of Hawaii. They were known to feed on the dry fruits of the Bastard Sandalwood trees. They were about 7 inches long, olive-green with a very large bill.

Common mamo (Drepanis pacifica) Extinct, last seen in 1898 at above the town of Hilo in Hawaii. An attractive bird with a long thin downward curving beak. Trapped regularly by the natives for its feathers. It is however likely, that as with the other species in this group, that habitat destruction, introduced predators, and disease were primarily responsible for its extinction. Feathers almost entirely black except for a few yellow feathers on rump, wing and under-tail coverts. Fed on nectar.

Black mamo (Drepanis funerea) Extinct - last specimen taken in 1907. Confined to the island of Molokai. Similar to the above D. pacifica except no yellow and with a hint of grey on the outer edges of the primaries. Fed on nectar. Introduced brown rats and mongooses are the presumed causes of extinction.

Most information on this page was contributed by EarthLife. 

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Last updated: 01 January 2003