The industrious ‘Alawī is a busy little bird that flits from branch to branch, prying insects from beneath the bark of trees. In the Hawaiʻian honeycreeper family, ʻalawī are now endangered and primarily inhabit the mixed koa and ʻōhiʻa forest of the Puʻu Makaʻala Natural Area Reserve on Mauna Loa.
While planting trees in this forest with Friends of Hakalau, our group had the joyful experience of observing a pair of adults feeding their keiki in a nest about 20 feet up in a koa tree. For hours these outstanding parents darted here and there, foraging throughout the nearby trees, extracting insects and returning to the nest to feed their chicks.
The ‘alawī is endemic to Hawai’i island. Imagine how special this bird is to have evolved into its own unique species in such an isolated place. This curious bird, who is not shy around humans, was once a common sight in upper elevation Hawai’i forests. It is now endangered because of the impacts of predation by feral cats, avian malaria spread by mosquitos and the destruction of habitat that has occurred since humans introduced sheep, goats and cattle to the island. ʻAlawī now live only in the Puʻu Makaʻala Natural Reserve area, because this area has been fenced and is managed with modern reforestation methods by the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources.