The Extinction of the Kauai ʻōʻō

The Kauai ʻōʻō was driven to extinction due to the presence of invasive species and habitat destruction but for other native forest birds conservation efforts can help.

The Hawaiian Islands are a unique and wondrous hotspot of biodiversity, but due to the introduction of invasive predators and habitat destruction, many of these birds have been driven to extinction. The Kauai ʻōʻō is a prime example; the small black and yellow bird once thrived from the shores of Kauai up to through the rugged mountains but the bird was last seen in 1985 and potentially last heard in 1987. Dr. Jim Jacobi recounts his experience of seeing the last remaining ʻōʻō on a trip in 1984 as he says:

It was a beautiful day as I recall. We started off from this camp and it takes about an hour to go from where we were camped to down to the stream. We stopped there and started to listen.”

As they listened and recorded the sounds of the forest, the ʻōʻō called and flew onto a nearby branch. When the ʻōʻō flew away, Dr. Jacobi replayed the sound and suddenly the bird returned. He soon realized the bird was responding to a call he had not heard in a long time.

Today, the Kauai ʻōʻō is extinct but other native forest birds such as the I’iwi are still around, but face the threats of invasive species and climate change. Luckily, conservationists are dedicated to ensuring a thriving future for these rare birds. Conservationists are hopeful that by working to remove invasive species and use captive breeding programs to bolster populations they can help these forest birds fill the forests once again. The ʻōʻō serves as a reminder to strive to prevent extinctions of these endemic birds.

Experience that day in 1984 through this virtual reality video and maneuver through the sights and sounds of the forest using the controls in the upper left-hand corner.

Featured photo: Adult and juvenile Kauai ʻōʻō. Credit: Walter Rothschild/Wikimedia Commons
Originally created and published by The Guardian

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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