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Rare Bird ‘I’ iwi (Vestaria Coccinea) Facts

Rare Bird ‘I’ iwi (Vestaria coccinea)

The adult iʻiwi is mostly fiery red, with black plumage and tail and a long, curved, salmon-colored bill used primarily for drinking nectar. The iʻiwi is one of the easiest Hawaiian birds to see, with red and black plumage contrasting with the surrounding green foliage. The smaller birds have more dappled golden plumage and ivory beaks and were mistaken for a separate species by early Hawaiian naturalists. iʻiwi, although used in the feather trade, was less influenced by the Hawaiian mamo because iʻiwi was not as sacred to Hawaiians. The Hawaiian Ali highly prized Iʻiwi feathers for use in ahuʻula and utility hole decoration. Such uses gave the species its scientific name: vestiaria, Latin for clothing, and coccinea, meaning scarlet. The bird is also frequently mentioned in Hawaiian folklore. The Hawaiian song Sweet Lei Mamo includes the line The ivy bird is also a friend. Like hummingbirds, the bird is capable of flying in the air. me

‘I’iwi – Partner in Bird Conservation

‘I’iwi The ‘I’iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) is a bright reddish-orange bird that resembles the hummingbird found in Hawaii. They drink nectar from Hawaiian lobelia flowers with long bills, but unlike hummingbirds, their bills are curved. They also feed on small crustaceans, butterflies, and other insects if nectar is hard to find. They can also float like birds. Another name for them is Hawaiian Honeycreeper.

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Many have seen old photos of Hawaiians dressed in feathered hats and bright red headdresses. Those wings are those of the ‘I’iwi when they are adults. It is only a matter of 2 weeks before the eggs hatch. Adulthood is almost as fast to reach in less than a month. They grow to about 15 centimeters, or about 6 inches long, and weigh about 17 grams, or about a half ounce. When newly hatched, their undersides are pale lime with rusty spots. As it grows, it changes to its adult coloration. Its plumage is black and little white near its wing area. Its legs are also bright reddish orange.

Smaller birds have better survival rates at higher altitudes because the mosquito population that causes avian malaria is absent. As they migrate to lower altitudes, they may encounter other avian diseases. Land and habitat changes have also decreased in number. In the face of disease, they have become extinct on one Hawaiian island, and only two survive in greater numbers on the other. The way scientists are trying to preserve the species is through the removal of non-native environmental factors. Predatory feral cats and rats are two other threats to ‘I’iwi.

In addition to its survival, it has been used to help other native bird species that may be endangered in the Hawaiian Islands, such as the Akoheko bird. Scientists catch ‘I’iwi birds in two ways, called hard and soft methods. Each was studied for survival rates of reintroduced birds. The hard method involved capturing, marking, and quickly releasing into a new area, while the soft method added week-long artificial nectar capturing and feeding period before release. Radio monitors picked up information from the released birds and used the relocation of Akohekohe to try to increase their population. The scientific community hopes that the numbers of these two birds will increase so much that the world no longer considers them endangered.

I’iwi is classified as Vulnerable (VU), facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Common Name: Iiwi
Scientific Name: Vestiaria coccinea
Category: Honeycreeper
Family: Fringillidae


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