- Federally Listed as Endangered
- State Listed as Endangered
- State Recognized as Endemic
- NatureServe Heritage Rank G1—Critically Imperiled
- IUCN Red List Ranking—Endangered
- Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds—USFWS 2006
The Hawai‘i ‘ākepa is a small, insectivorous Hawaiian honeycreeper (Family: Fringillidae) endemic to the island of Hawai‘i. ‘Ākepa also are known from Maui (L. c. ochraceus) and O‘ahu (L. c. rufus); both of which are likely extinct. Currently, all ‘ākepa are considered one species, although they are recognized as critically imperiled at the subspecies level. After three years, males obtain their bright orange adult plumage; when not fully matured plumage is dull brownish orange, although individual variation is high. Females are grayishgreen with a yellow breast band. The lower mandible of the ‘ākepa is slightly bent to one side which results in the mandible tips being offset; a characteristic shared with the ‘akeke‘e (L. caeruleirostris). The bend can be to the left or right, and depending on the direction of the bend, individuals also possess an accompanying leg asymmetry; the leg opposite the curve in the mandible is slightly longer than the other leg. Together, these adaptations likely improve the species foraging efficiency. They often join mixed-species hunting groups, particularly those with Hawai‘i creepers (Oreomystis mana). They feed mainly on ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) leaf clusters, but also on koa (Acacia koa) leaves and seed pods, where it uses its bill to pry open leaf and flower buds in search of small arthropods. ‘Ākepa are obligate cavity nesters, with most nests placed in natural cavities found in old-growth ‘ōhi‘a and koa trees. Females build nests, incubate eggs, and brood chicks, and males deliver food to the female on and off the nest. Both parents feed the young, which remain with their parents for two to three months after flying.
Occurs in five isolated populations above 1,300 meters (4,300 feet) elevation on the windward side of the island of Hawai‘i. Original range likely included all forested regions of the island.
Occurs in ‘ōhi‘a and ‘ōhi‘a/koa forests above 1,300 meters (4,300 feet). Density appears to be related to the number of available cavities, and because cavities primarily occur in older, large trees, old-growth forests may be preferred. The highest density of ‘ākepa occurs in the Pua ‘Ākala tract of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, which has numerous large trees but a degraded understory. Many areas occupied by the species have been degraded by feral ungulates. Most of the current range of the Hawai‘i ‘ākepa is managed by State and Federal agencies or private conservation partnerships.
- Habitat degradation and loss. Logging and ranching has fragmented and reduced the amount of suitable habitat. Breeding density may be limited by nest-site availability and current levels of food availability may limit populations. In forest fragments, the large trees required for nesting may be more susceptible to windfall and desiccation. The slow growth rate of ‘ōhi‘a complicates management for ‘ākepa. In addition, habitat fragmentation may prevent or restrict natural re-colonization of former range.
- Disease. The Hawai‘i ‘ākepa is not found below 1,300 meters (4,300 feet), which suggests that it is particularly susceptible to mosquito-borne diseases.
- Predation. Cavity nests may be vulnerable to rat predation, although nest success is high at Pua ‘Ākala in the Hakalau Forest NWR, where rat densities are high.
For more information and references visit the State Wildlife Action Plan factsheets. DOFAWʻs species pages and State Wildlife Action Plan fact sheets are provided for general information and are not meant to be a citable, original source of data. If you are a student, researcher, or writer looking for a citable source, please explore the references below or find other original data sources, rather than citing these webpages. The references below were provided by the authors of the State Wildlife Action Plan fact sheets at the time of drafting:
- Lepson JK, Freed LA. 1997. ‘Akepa (Loxops coccineus). In The Birds of North America, No. 294 (Poole A, Gill F, editors.). Philadelphia, (PA): The Academy of Natural Sciences; and Washington DC: The American Ornithologists’ Union.
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015. Version 2014.3. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed May 2015).
- Scott JM, Mountainspring S, Ramsey FL, Kepler CB. 1986. Forest bird communities of the Hawaiian islands: their dynamics, ecology and conservation. Lawrence, (KS): Cooper Ornithological Society.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006. Revised Recovery plan for Hawaiian forest birds. Portland, (OR): U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.