HONOLULU (KHON2) — Birds, Not Mosquitoes, the multi-agency partnership, is working to collect mosquito samples on the Big Island as they work to stop avian malaria from killing honeycreepers on the islands.

Avian malaria is on the brink of pushing two species of Hawaiian honeycreepers to extinction. Mosquitoes, particularly the female southern house mosquitoes, are one of the main culprits.

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“We are only interested in female southern house mosquitos, because they are the big bad guys in terms of the avian malaria story. Once a female bites a susceptible bird, it has a 90 percent chance of dying,” Cara Thow, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife and Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit avian disease research supervisor for Big Island, explained.

Thow and her research team, of three, have been capturing these mosquitoes to study their patterns and to determine a way to block their impact on the ecosystem.

According to Thow, the increased temperatures that are accompanying climate change are allowing mosquitoes to creep into higher elevations where native birds live. This is causing a devastating effect on local bird populations with several species of birds being impacted by avian malaria and its eventual path to extinction.

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Hawai‘i, Maui and Kaua’i islands are experiencing the impact of these mosquito populations.

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