image of poouli

Poʻouli. PC: Paul E. Baker, US Fish & Wildlife Service


  • ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi: Poʻouli
  • Scientific: Melamprosops phaeosoma

Conservation Status

  • Presumed Extinct
  • Federally Listed as Endangered
  • State Listed as Endangered
  • State Recognized as Endemic
  • NatureServe Heritage Rank: G1 – Critically Imperiled
  • IUCN Red List Ranking: Critically Endangered (Potentially Extinct)
  • Revised Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Forest Birds – USFWS 2006

Species Information

The po‘ouli is a stocky Hawaiian honeycreeper (Family: Fringillidae) endemic to Maui that was not discovered until 1973. Po‘ouli have short wings and tail, a finch-like bill, and distinctive plumage. Aptly named “black-” in Hawaiian, po‘ouli have a large black face mask, white cheeks, throat, and underparts and brown wings and back; no other Hawaiian forest bird is similarly colored. This species, not well-studied, males and females are similar in appearance with females displaying a grayish throat and breast. Little is known of the species’ life history. Po‘ouli documented joining hunting parties comprised of several species. Forages primarily in the sub-canopy and understory on tree branches of native shrubs and trees where they search moss, lichens, and bark for snails and arthropods. Breeding biology is based on observations from a single nesting pair and may be biased because of extremely low population density. For example, territorial behavior has not been observed. Nests are similar to those of other Hawaiian honeycreepers and are placed in ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) trees. Only the female incubates eggs and broods nestlings; the male feeds the female on and off the nest.


Likely restricted to a 1,300 hectare (3,200 acres) area between 1,440 and 2,100 meters (4,750 – 7,000 feet) elevation on the northeastern slope of Haleakalā on Maui. No historical data on range, although fossil evidence indicates that po‘ouli once occurred over a wider geographic range.


Mixed shrub montane wet forest dominated by ‘ōhi‘a, with an understory dominated by a diversity of small trees and shrubs, many of which are used as foraging substrates (e.g., kanawao [Broussaissea arguta], kāwa’u [Ilex anomala]). Habitat conditions in areas once occupied by po‘ouli are variable but improving. All known individuals occurred in the Hanawī Natural Area Reserve which is managed by the State of Hawai‘i.


Unknown. However, po‘ouli is likely susceptible to the same factors that threaten other native Hawaiian forest birds, including habitat loss and degradation, predation by introduced mammals, and introduced disease. For po‘ouli, the following are likely of particular concern:

  • Habitat degradation. The species appears to prefer areas with low levels of soil and  vegetation disturbance and therefore may be particularly sensitive to understory and ground cover damage by feral pigs (Sus scrofa).
  • Predation. Rats (Rattus spp.) are abundant in po‘ouli habitat and may depredate adults and nests.
  • Competition. In addition to direct predation on adults and nests, rats also may compete with po’ouli for food resources, especially snails. Also, the non-native garlic snail (Oxychilus alliarius) is abundant and preys on native snails.

Additional Resources 

For more information and references visit the DLNR 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:

  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2015. Version 2014.3. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed May 2015).
  • Pratt TK, Kepler CB, Casey TLC. 1997. Po’ouli (Melamprosops phaesoma). In The Birds of North America, No. 272 (Poole A, Gill F, editors). Philadelphia, (PA): The Academy of Natural Sciences; and Washington DC: The American Ornithologists’ Union.
  • 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. 428 pp.