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We studied the relationship of flower availability to the seasonality of life history events of the `Akohekohe (Palmeria dolei), a primarily nectarivorous and endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper from montane rain forests on Maui, Hawai`i. For comparison, we also investigated temporal bird density and foraging behavior of three other competing Hawaiian honeycreepers: `Apapane (Himatione sanguinea), `I`iwi (Vestiaria coccinea), and Hawai`i `Amakihi (Hemignathus virens). All species except `Amakihi fed primarily on nectar of `Ohi?a-lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), which produced flowers year-round but had an annual flowering peak in January. Flowers of several subcanopy shrubs and trees were important components of the diet for all nectarivores, and these were available seasonally depending upon the species. `Akohekohe densities did not change temporally, suggesting a relatively stable population residing above 1,700 m. Monthly densities of `Apapane, `I`iwi, and Hawai`i `Amakihi were positively correlated with monthly `Ohi?a-lehua flower abundance, and 50-80% of these populations departed temporarily from our high-elevation site in July. There was a positive correlation with the timing of Akohekohe breeding and high abundance of `Ohi?a-lehua bloom. Molt followed breeding. From a conservation perspective, these results show that `Akohekohe maintain a relatively stable population above the mid-elevation zone of disease transmission, particularly during the fall when `Ohi?a-lehua bloom decreases and mosquitoes increase. `Akohekohe remain on their territories partly by switching their foraging to subcanopy trees and shrubs, most of which require protection from feral pigs (Sus scrofa).
Additional Publication Details
`Akohekohe response to flower availability: seasonal abundance, foraging, breeding, and molt