Iiwi: Vibrant red plumage overall with black wings and tail. Wings show contrasting white patch on inner secondaries. Salmon-colored bill is long and decurved. Undulating flight, alternates several rapid wing beats with wings pulled to sides. Wings produce a characteristic whirring noise in flight.
Range and Habitat
Iiwi: Large colonies exist on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai, comon in wet forests at hight elevations. There are less than 50 individuals on the lower elevation islands of Oahu and Molokai, and they are now extinct on Lanai. Prefers to keep hidden among the leaves.
The feathers of the Iiwi were used by Native Hawaiians to create robes for nobility, giving rise to its scientific name, vestiaria, from the latin word for clothing, and coccinea, scarlet-colored. The juveniles were once thought to be a different species because of their golden plumage and ivory bills.
Over the past 100 years, its bill length has shrunk by .5mm, this may reflect its diet of shorter flowers such as from the 'ohia tree, instead of the longer curved lobelioid flowers which have become endangered.
This honeycreeper is a member of the Finch rather than the Tanager family, where honeycreepers found in Central and South America are currently placed. Its subfamily, Drepanidinae was formerly considered a family, has become a subfamily of the Fringillidae family due to advances in molecular studies.
A group of honeycreepers are collectively known as a "hive" of honeycreepers.
The Iiwi has a small range, confined only to small parts of the Hawaiian Islands. Native to North America, the Iiwi prefers Subtropical and Tropical Forest habitats. The population of the bird was last estimated at 350,000 individuals in the early 1990’s and is known to be decreasing due in large part to avian malaria transmitted by mosquitoes. The Iiwi, due to a recent decrease in population in many areas where the bird was only marginally populous, is now classified on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable.