On my last hike on the Pu’u O’o Trail, off Saddle Road, I soon ran into a man and his son staring at a tree a short distance away. The man explained that they’d seen an i’iwi, a native Hawaiian honeycreeper, fly into the tree and were hoping to see it again. I waited with them for a while, but saw nothing and decided to move on.
A little later I ran into two men coming out of a kipuka, a cluster of old vegetation that has been bypassed by lava flows. One of them, looking pretty pleased, held out his camera and said they’d just seen an i’iwi and he’d got some good photos. He mentioned the spot where they’d seen the bird, so I headed into the trees to have a look. Nothing. It was beginning to look like it was going to be one of those days where everyone else has a wonderful experience except me!
But not long after, I saw a flash of red and then this bird settled on a branch and began to add its song to the loud chorus of bird songs in the kipuka. One thing about i’iwis is that if they’re around, they’re easy to see, their bright red plumage standing out against the green background.
After the bird flew off, I carried on with my hike. When I returned half an hour later, the bird song in the kipukas had diminished considerably and I didn’t see or hear anymore i’iwis.
Posted in response to Becky’s April Squares challenge theme of ‘Bright.’ See more responses here.
I saw this I’iwi (Drepanis coccinea) on a trail off of Saddle Road, between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. These bright red birds are native Hawaiian honeycreepers and in the old days, the feathers of the birds were collected to make cloaks for Hawaiian royalty.
The curved bill is suited for feeding on native lobelias, but a decline in those plants has seen the I’iwi adapt to feeding on other native plants including ʻōhiʻa lehua, māmane, and ohelo.
While the numbers of I’iwi are still fairly good, particularly on the Big Island and Maui, they have suffered, like other birds, from loss of habitat. In addition, They are susceptible to avian malaria, spread by mosquitoes. Consequently, I’iwi are doing better at higher elevations, such as where this photo was taken at around 6,000 feet.
The I’iwi (vestiaria coccinea) is a native Hawaiian honeycreeper, which is still quite common on the Big Island, as well as on Kaua’i and Maui. I saw several while hiking the Pu’u O’o Trail, off of Saddle Road. The fact that they’re bright red and they have a quite distinctive call makes spotting them a bit easier for a non-birder like me.