HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Native forest birds of Hawaiʻi maintain a fragile existence.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is working tirelessly to protect the birds that are indigenous to these islands.

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But, the task has been a hard fought battle with numerous invasive species of animals, insects and plants that endanger the lives and habitat of these rare and special birds.

On Friday, March 17, Hawaiʻi’s Congressional delegation — U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Representatives Ed Case (D-HI) and Jill Tokuda (D-HI) — announced that they have taken steps to assist with protecting native bird species by sending a letter to Charles “Chuck” Sams, Director of the National Park Service (NPS).

The letter urges NPS to prioritize its efforts to create a solution for protecting Hawaiʻi’s critically endangered native forest birds. The delegation requested that NPS use funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, passed in 2022, to continue efforts being taken at Haleakala National Park on Maui.

“As the National Park Service determines how to implement the Inflation Reduction Act, we urge you to continue prioritizing this urgent work as these culturally and ecologically significant birds face extinction,” the lawmakers wrote.

The imperiled situation for the Native Hawaiian forest birds is due to things like avian malaria. As temperatures rise around the world, these birds’ habitat are being invaded by invasive mosquitos that are able to migrate farther into the mountainous areas where the birds live.

  • A photo shows an ʻakiapolaʻau in the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve on Hawai'i Island in January 2023. (Photo/Department of Land and Natural Resources)
  • A photo shows an apapane in the Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve on Hawai'i Island in January 2023. (Photo/Department of Land and Natural Resources)
  • Christmas, an ʻakiapōlāʻau, is wearing bands that identify them in the wild. They are an endangered species of Hawaiian honeycreeper that live in Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve on Hawai'i Island. (Photo/Department of Land and Natural Resources)
  • ‘Akikiki search and rescue, Alakai Plateau (Photo/Department of Land and Natural Resources)

Entire populations of Native Hawaiian forest birds were destroyed by an avian malaria outbreak in the 1900s.

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“Four Hawaiian honeycreepers are at risk of extinction within the next ten years,” continued the lawmakers. “If we lose these special birds, we also lose the essential roles they perform within the native ecosystem and a piece of Hawaiian culture. Unless we take significant action now, they will be gone forever.”