This post continues my series introducing the native forest birds of Kaua’i. The inaugural entry can be found here.
The ‘Akeke’e (Loxops caeruleirostris) is a mysterious and frustrating bird. Part of my job is to locate its nests, and the bird’s habit of staying high in the canopy and suddenly flying off over the horizon makes this difficult. (I’ve found one ‘Akeke’e nest so far, but it was completely by accident.) Anyways. When you put this aside, they are rather lovely birds too. Both sexes are greenish-yellow (the female perhaps more on the greenish side) honeycreepers with a black ninja mask and a forked tail. Their short, conical bills are slightly crossed, helping them pry open ohia buds in search of insects. They step from twig to twig above the canopy as they forage, and are often invisible from below as the leaves are so thick. More often, one hears their songs from afar—a trill of varying speed and length that usually drops in pitch towards the end (distinguishing it from the other three trilling honeycreepers on Kaua’i).
Unlike the ‘Akikiki, the ‘Akeke’e builds nests of sticks, and its nests are quite large. One of the other field techs has compared them to giant waffle cones in shape. Because their nests are so hard to find, we still know very little about their reproductive biology.
Alone among Kaua’i’s forest birds, the ‘Akeke’e appears never to have lived at lower elevations: there are no fossil records of it around the coast. So its present-day range is actually probably not much reduced from its historical range. However, its numbers are still critically low, and the linked plagues of mosquito-borned diseases, habitat loss and degradation, and climate change could constrict its distribution.
Akeke’e are not quite as hard to see on a day trip as Akikiki, but still sightings are never guaranteed. Again the Alakai Swamp Trail in Koke’e State Park is the best chance, but the Pihea Trail is also home to at least one breeding pair.
Further Information (and pictures. I’m sorry I can’t offer any of my own, but I don’t have a good enough camera):