Maui Parrotbill

Pseudonestor xanthophrys

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1997
  • John C. Simon, Paul E. Baker, and Helen Baker

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Maui Parrotbill

Based on Scott et al. 1986, supplemented by recent information from PEB, HB, and USGS/BRD.

Adult male Maui Parrotbill, Waikamoi Preserve, February 1995.

; photographer Jack Jeffrey

The Maui Parrotbill is an endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper that was first collected in 1892 by Henry Palmer and described by Rothschild (Rothschild 1893a). No Hawaiian name for the species survives. Currently restricted to the remote high-elevation rain forests of eastern Maui, the Maui Parrotbill was thought to be extinct until its rediscovery in 1950 (Richards and Baldwin 1953). Today the population is estimated to be about 500 birds (Scott et al. 1986).

Before the 1980s, various naturalists had encountered Maui Parrotbill but had collected little detailed information (Wilson and Evans 1890, Rothschild 1893a, Henshaw 1902a, Perkins 1903, Banko 1968, Scott and Sincock 1977). Very little was known about the species until biologists began natural history studies in the 1980s, and the first confirmed active nest was not discovered until 1993 (Van Gelder 1993, Lockwood et al. 1994).

The Maui Parrotbill is a small, olive-green bird with a relatively large, parrotlike bill, which it uses to rip into branches and stems, to pluck and bite open fruit, and to lift bark and lichens in search of concealed invertebrates. It is one of the most sexually dimorphic of Hawaiian honeycreepers: Males are much larger than females, and their underparts are brighter yellow. Chicks are fed by regurgitation, and because fledglings remain dependent on their parents for 5 months or longer, sightings are frequently of family groups.

The ecology of this species remains poorly known, but ongoing research should provide much needed information, especially about factors affecting productivity. Such understanding will be essential in developing management strategies to help safeguard the future of the Maui Parrotbill.

Recommended Citation

Simon, J. C., P. E. Baker, and H. Baker (1997). Maui Parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.