In October 2019, seven of the critically endangered kiwikiu birds in Hawaii were translocated to Maui’s Nakula Natural Area Reserve in an attempt to save the species before becoming extinct.
The gold-and-green kiwikiu, also known as Maui Parrotbill, were taken there due to an epidemic of the disease avian malaria that was transmitted to the island by “non-native” mosquitos. Unfortunately, even with the help of wildlife experts, five of the seven birds died due to the disease.
The remaining two birds were nowhere to be found and were considered dead until one of them was heard by researcher Zach Pezzillo two years later while he was at the Haleakalā volcano-based reserve.
“I first heard what I thought might be a distant kiwikiu song,” Pezzillo said in a statement, according to NY Post. “It then sang about ten times across a gulch in some koa trees.”
As he listened and followed the sound, he spotted the bird as it dropped down into the kolea trees. There it spent the next 20 minutes chirping and actively foraging for berries, bark, and leaves.
Pezzillo said he was able to get a closer look at the bird and confirmed it was one of the lost kiwikiu’s due to a banded mark still on its leg.
“This bird has been exposed to disease, as the others were, and has somehow persevered,” Dr. Hanna Moucne of the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project said.
The fact that it survived provides hope that there may still be more of them out there, as well as, other similar species in the reserve. Experts believe that there still may be time to save them.
“This is a hopeful sign that a population of kiwikiu and other native forest birds could survive in restored landscapes in the future, especially without mosquitoes and disease,” Moucne said.