Episode 17: Birds on the Brink
Hawai’i is home to a broad, beautiful array of bird species found only on its islands — like the stunningly diverse honeycreepers, many on the border of extinction. Now, a local team is removing invasive predators, restoring habitats, and battling mosquito-borne diseases to protect honeycreepers from their latest threat: avian malaria.
More than 50 species of honeycreepers once filled the forests and mountains of Hawai’i with their songs. Now, only 17 species remain, with some placed at risk of extinction within the next few years. Avian malaria, primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, poses the most significant threat.
While avian diseases are widespread globally, they only reached Hawai’i in the early 1900s. Many native birds, including honeycreepers, evolved without a natural resistance. The Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project is implementing a mosquito control technique to reduce mosquito populations, offering a lifeline for native birds a chance to raise their next generation. This innovative approach offers an opportunity to not only protect Hawaiian honeycreepers but also serve as a beacon for preserving biodiversity worldwide.