Woodpeckers in Hawaii (Only One Endemic Species)

Hawaii is undeniably beautiful and full of stunning wildlife, from the unique flowers that don’t grow anywhere else, to the native birds like the nene and the Hawai’i ‘akepa. The Aloha State is even home to one species of woodpecker.

Wait a second. Only one? Yep. Because the state is thousands of miles from the nearest continent, it was historically difficult for animals to move to or from it. Many of the animals and plants that live there today aren’t native, but were brought there by humans.

But there is one species of woodpecker that managed to make a home in Hawaii, and that’s the Hawaiian honeycreeper, known locally as the ‘akiapola’au. 

Here is the only species of woodpecker in Hawaii:

  1. ‘Akiapola’au

The Only Woodpecker in Hawaii

1. ‘Akiapola’au

  • Scientific name: Hemignathus wilsoni
  • Size: 5.5 inches long
  • Weight: 0.99 ounces 
  • Wingspan: 7-8 inches

The ‘akiapola’au doesn’t look like any of the woodpeckers that live in North America and it’s only distantly related. Honeycreepers are more closely related to rosefinches. The birds are yellow with a long, curving black upper beak and shorter lower beak. They also have a white underbelly and olive-colored wings. They make a tap-tap-tapping sound as they dig in trees for food.

The Hawaiian honeycreeper wasn’t always the only woodpecker in Hawaii. The Kaua’i nukupu’u lived on Kaua’i but is thought to be extinct today. Similarly, the Maui nukupu’u lived on Maui but was last seen in the 1990s and is also thought to be likely extinct. That leaves the ‘akiapola’au as the last of its genus on the islands, and there are thought to be only a few hundred birds left.

This bird lives in forests where it feeds on insects. It can also dine on the nectar in flowers, much like a hummingbird. While it used to have a broader range, human activity, rat populations, and disease-carrying mosquitoes have pushed the bird to elevations between 4,300 and 6,900 feet. You won’t see them higher or lower than that.

These cute little honeycreepers are considered endangered, so it’s not easy to find them. But if you are dedicated (and lucky), you might have the chance to add them to your life list.

Also Read: Owls in Hawaii

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