Lesser koa-finch

Lesser koa-finch

Lesser Koa-Finch


  • Common Name:  Lesser koa-finch  
  • Scientific:  Rhodacanthis flaviceps 


No available recordings.

Conservation Status 

Extinct. Last confirmed sighting in 1891.

Species Information 

The lesser koa-finch, greater koa-finch, and Kona grosbeak are similar species due to their size, habitats, and brief documented history. The main differences between these honeycreepers are their colors and beaks. The lesser koa-finch were medium sized honeycreepers, also referred to as “yellow-headed koa-finch,” because of their yellow- and orange-colored heads, with the male’s plumage brighter than the females (Olson 1999). The lesser koa-finch beaks were adapted for koa pods. These birds had thinly lined, yet large stomachs, enabling them to store an abundance of koa pods (Perkins 1903). Recognized only for about a decade on Hawaiʻi island, the lesser koa-finch is now extinct, last seen in 1891.   


Hawaiʻi Island 


Lesser koa-finches were found in the dry, middle elevation, mesic forests of North Kona (Olson 1999).  Specimens were collected from the southwest slopes of Hualalai (Munro 1944 and Banko 1979, 986, in Pyle & Pyle 2017).


Due to their brief history, the cause of extinction is unclear. However, these birds consumed one specific type of food in a niche habitat, so the assumption is that as the terrain changes with an increase in human populations, the birds could not adapt. These changes include factors such as deforestation and introduced species (Grant 1995).  The discovery and disappearance of this bird happened almost simultaneously with the Kona grosbeak and greater koa-finch (Olson 1999).  


Lesser Koa-Finch

Rhodacanthis flaviceps. John Gerrard Keulemans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Additional Resources 

Pyle, R.L., and P. Pyle. 2017. The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status. B.P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI, U.S.A. Version 2 (1 January 2017)

Grant, P. R. 1995. In remembrance: Cliloridops kona, died ca. 1895. The Linnean,  Newsletter and Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond, 11(13): 14-23 

Olson, S. L. (1999). Kona Grosbeak (Chloridops kona), Greater Koa-finch (Rhodacanthis palmeri), Lesser Koa-finch (Rhodacanthis flaviceps). The birds of North America. 

Perkins, R. C. L. 1903. Vertebrata. Pp. 365-466 in Fauna Hawaiiensis or the zoology of the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands (David Sharp, ed.). Cambridge Univ. Press. Vol. 1, part 4.