Thursday, October 24, 2013

Creature Feature #9: Akiapola’au

Like all Hawaiian honeycreepers, this golden bird is susceptible to bird malaria and is only found at elevations where mosquitoes are not. If Darwin had travelled to Hawaii instead of the Galapagos, he could still have come up with his theories on divergent evolution. The slender top bill of this fellow is used to pry open bark and hook out insect larvae, which are then crushed by the lower mandible.

Hawaii’s native birds suffered tremendously with the introduction of humans. Unlike many other island communities, it was not the flightlessness of the birds that proved their undoing - most of their endemic species were small passerines - honeycreepers, descended from an original immigrant, or larger honeyeaters. Bird malaria claimed many of the former, and hunting the latter. There are now none of the five honeyeater species (which include the O’o) left at all and the honeycreepers cling by a narrow thread.

I shall be drawing more hawaiian honeycreepers in tribute and to build awareness. Look for the Akohekohe, Anianiau, Akepa, Akikiki and the Apapane amongst the As! I may not draw them all, but I intend to try!

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