The spectacular red-orange feathers of the I`iwi were used extensively by Hawaiians for cloaks, capes, and other featherwork.
Distribution: Found on Kaua`i, Maui, and Hawaii in native forests above 2,000 feet. Very rare on O`ahu and Moloka`i, and extinct on Lana`i.
Description: I`iwi are bright reddish-orange birds with a long, curved, salmon-colored bill and orange legs. The wings are black with a patch of white. Juvenile birds are speckled with yellows and greens and they have a light colored bill.
Voice: The wide repertoire of calls and songs are generally loud and squeaky. The whistle is clear and ascending.
Nesting: The nests are built primarily of twigs and are lined with lichens and mosses. There are usually 2-3 eggs in a clutch, and the incubation period is about 14 days. Breeding is generally extended, ranging from December through June, often with pairs producing two clutches per season.
Diet: I`iwi feed primarily on nectar, but feeds on many insects and spiders as well. The blossoms of the `ohi`a-lehua tree appear to be the most important source of nectar. It is thought that the bills of the I`iwi evolved to access the nectar from the long, curved blossoms of the native lobelia and cyanea plants. These flowers are now very rare. Perhaps the I`iwi have shifted their diet toward `ohi`a-lehua and may be evolving shorter bills as a consequence.
Conservation Note: I`iwi are fairly common on Kaua`i, Maui, and the island of Hawai`i. Their declines on Moloka`i, Lana`i, and O`ahu are likely due to habitat loss, introduced diseases and predation by rats. Although the I`iwi population on the island of Hawai`i is still fairly large, recent evidence indicates that it might be seriously declining. I`iwi appear to be especially succeptible to introduced diseases and it is suspected that their long migrations in search of nectar may lead them into mosquito infested areas where they contract avian malaria and avian poxvirus.