Endangered frequent fliers [slideshow]
Photo courtesy of Jack Jeffrey
Location. Location. Location. You’ll get rainforest canopy permanently shrouded in clouds and mist, situated precisely between 5,000 and 7,900 feet, and bathed in up to 275 inches of rain per year. That’s the good news if you’re a flashy nectar forager on the northeastern slope of Maui’s Haleakala Volacano. The bad news? Mosquitos are out to get you with their avian flu germs and the damn feral pigs are destroying your neighborhood from below.
Akohekohe’s are tough birds, however, hanging out on the endangered list since 1967. Loud, aggressive, dare we say, bossy, they may chase away other nectar-seeking species, but they don’t turn their beaks up at caterpillars, flies, spiders, and other invertebrates. For food, that is.
You’d think that kind of flexibility would stand these birds in good stead. And yet, between climate change, the pigs, the mosquitoes and invading plant species, the Akohekohe is still just hanging on to its endangered status. Extinction is the last rung on that ladder.