Oreomystis bairdi


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Oreomystis bairdi
Species Authority: (Stejneger, 1887)
Common Name(s):
English Akikiki, 'Akikiki, Kauai Creeper

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered B1ab(i,ii,iii,v) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2012-05-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Camp, R., Fretz, S., Gorresen, M., Roberts, P., VanderWerf, E. & Woodworth, B.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Derhé, M., Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Stuart, T. & Symes, A.
This species qualifies as Critically Endangered because it has an extremely small declining range, confined to one upland area where it is at risk from the effects of hurricanes and exotic taxa, including predators and disease.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This species was common and widely distributed in the 1890s on Kaua`i in the Hawaiian Islands (USA). During 1968-1973, the total population was estimated at 6,832 (±966 standard error), when it was recorded on the Laau ridge and was fairly widespread in Koke'e (USFWS 1983). Since then, the population has declined and the species has retreated from the Koke`e region and the fringes of the Alaka`i region, and is now uncommon to rare in the Alaka`i (Pratt et al. 1987, Pratt 1993, 1994). Recent unpublished survey data indicate dramatic declines (85-89% since 1968-1973) and a decline of c.64% in its core area in the Alaka`i Swamp from 1970 to 2000 (Anon 2007). Most recently the population was estimated to number 1,312 ± 530 birds, based on surveys conducted in April and May 2007 (Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and USGS,, occupying an area of just 36 km2 (Foster et al. 2004).

United States
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Most recently the population was estimated to number 1,312 ±177; 530 birds, based on surveys conducted in April and May 2007 (Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and USGS unpublished data). This is rounded to 780-1,840 individuals here, roughly equivalent to 520-1,200 mature individuals.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It is found in high-elevation `ohi`a and koa-`ohi`a forest, but the latter is mainly distributed in the Koke`e region, from where it is retreating (USFWS 1983, Scott et al 1986, Pratt 1993). The Alaka`i stronghold is at 1,000-1,600 m. However, the 1968-1973 surveys found the species at lower altitudes in a few areas, and it may not occur above 1,500 m (USFWS 1983, Scott et al 1986). It feeds on invertebrates (Scott et al 1986, Pratt et al. 1987), and has been observed excavating rotting wood from the centre of a twig, presumably for insect larvae (VanderWerf and Roberts 2008). Both parents have been observed bringing food to the nest, with the male providing some food for the female, though the female does also foraging independently. A nesting pair in 2007 had a juvenile from a previous nest, indicating the species will attempt to raise two broods (VanderWerf and Roberts 2008).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Lowland forests have been cleared for timber and agriculture, with feral livestock causing further degradation and destruction (USFWS 1983, Scott et al 1986). Feral pigs continue to be particularly detrimental, additionally dispersing alien plants and facilitating the spread of introduced mosquitoes which transmit avian malaria and avian pox (Scott et al 1986, Pratt 1994, Loope and Medeiros 1995). Domestic and introduced birds provide reservoirs for these diseases, to which there is little resistance in Hawaiian honeycreeper populations (USFWS 1983, Scott et al 1986, Pratt 1994, Lepson 1997). Predation by introduced animals and competition for arthropod resources by introduced taxa (especially Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus, wasps and ants) are additional threats (USFWS 1983, Scott et al 1986, Jacobi and Atkinson 1995, Lepson 1997). Introduced plants such as Kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), blackberry (Rubus argutus), strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), Australian tree fern (Cyathea cooperi) and firetree (Myrica faya) have degraded much native forest in Koke'e, and threaten the remaining habitat. Hurricanes have had major impacts on population size in the past; in 1992 Hurricane Iniki devastated forests throughout Kaua`i, and all bird populations on the island appeared to have been drastically reduced (Pratt 1993, 1994), although some have since recovered. Hurricanes are now thought to displace birds from the small area of suitable habitat at altitude and push them into the lowlands where avian malaria is prevalent (Anon 2007). A growing concern is that rising temperatures could allow mosquitoes to survive at higher altitudes and further transmit avian malaria and avian pox (Anon 2007), and having a montane distribution that is close to the maximum altitude within its range, this species is potentially susceptible to climate change (BirdLife International unpublished data).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
It occurs within the Alaka`i Wilderness Preserve but has declined dramatically within this area. The Zoological Society of San Diego is developing techniques for rearing Oreomystis creepers from eggs and breeding them in captivity, using the related Hawai`i Creeper, at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (USFWS 2003). The Hawai`i Creeper has been successfully propagated in captivity, and release of the captive population is planned (USFWS 2003, P. Roberts in litt. 2007). Captive breeding of Akikiki was due to begin in 2008. Starting in April 2007, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources conducted population surveys of forest birds on Kaua'i to determine trends which were being analysed in late 2007. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2005 that the Akikiki should be officially designated an endangered species, but declined to move forward with the listing for budgetary reasons. It has been a candidate species since 1994 and was again proposed in 2007 (Vanderwerf and ABC 2007). The Kaua'i Watershed Alliance and The Nature Conservancy are considering fencing the north-eastern section of the Alakai Plateau on Kaua'i where the species was last recorded to exclude herbivores and possibly other predators.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Protect the Alaka`i Wilderness Preserve from the invasion of introduced plants and feral ungulates (Scott et al 1986), and restore degraded areas. Continue to monitor its population status and distribution. Develop the programme for captive rearing and release, before the population falls to a critical level.

Citation: BirdLife International 2012. Oreomystis bairdi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 28 August 2015.
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