The 'Akohekohe (Palmeria dolei) is a species of finch in the Fringillidae family. It is endemic to the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands region. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montanes forests found only on the northern part of Haleakala. It is a medium sized bird in this group and is 5 1/2 to 6 inches in size. The adults are a glossy black with whitish feathers and stripes going down its side. The underparts are whitish black while the top has orange feathers sticking from wings. The feathers behind the eyes are a reddish color, and have a stream of cream colored feathers coming from the eyes. One of the things that most people recognize about this bird is its whitish gold colored feather crest on its head. The younger birds are brownish black and they do not have the orangish feathers of the parents. The legs and bills are a blackish color. It has a variety of songs. The most well known of the calls is a pair of “whee-o, whee-o”, being repeated over and over again. Also another well known song is a descending thrill which is done about five seconds apart. It songs include a low chuckling sound, “tjook, tjook, chouroup” or a rarer song, “hur-hur-hur-gluk-gluk-gluk”. During a search for the species in the East Maui forests, there were a record of 415 observations over an area of 11,000 acres, all of these sightings were in elevations from 4,200 feet to 7,100 feet above sea level. It has been estimated that the total Akohekohe left in Maui are totaling to 3,800 birds, which have been broken into two populations which are broken by the Ko'olau Gap.
It's a nectivorous bird that feeds on the blossoms of Ohi'a-lehua, Mamane, and Koa. It has been known to attack aggressively at other species of nectarivores including the related Apapane and I’iwi. This aggression usually occurs when there are few blossoms to fed on and the Akohekohe defends a area so it can survive this low period of blossoming. The related Apapane also shows this type of aggression to other birds. The flowers that it prefers are found on the O’hia-lehua trees, but will take the nectar of other plants when O’hias are scarce. During the times when all plants have gone into a resting point, this species will look for insects and fruit.
Known also as the Crested Honeycreeper, this bird now only survives on Maui, but once lived on the island of Molokai. This bird was common on both islands at the start of the 20th century. It once used to exist on the Eastern part of Molokai but researchers searched high and low for the bird but by 1907 it was gone from Molokai. It was thought to be extinct after that however in 1945 a small population was discovered in the NAR or National Area Reserve on Halakea in Maui. Over the course of the millennia, this species has been getting rarer and rarer. The first inhabitants, the Polynesians have been changing the land to fit them. A lot of forest was cut down to create good farmland. When the Europeans arrived, many more factors had arrived and the loss of land and this species had increased. People had brought with them three species of rats. These species are attacking the eggs, chicks, and adults of many species of birds. They are also eating the food of many of these birds. The Akohekohe’s unusual looks made it a must for many collectors to have. In the 1900s, mosquitos were introduced and inflicted powerful diseases on the birds, which have almost no resistance to. The last but not least is the release of many species of animals which are not native to Hawaii. Many of these creatures are birds which compete with the ones that already lived here for food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young.
According to the Federal Endangered Species Act, this bird is protected by law along with its habitat. The bird was put into the act in March 1967. It was also a part of many other documents including the Maui-Molokai Forest Bird Recovery Plan in 1967, by the Fish and Wildlife Service. It will serve as a guideline to protect the indigenous life of Maui and Molokai. The final recovery plan in 1984 continues the last, keeping eyes on the species and eradicate any ungulates that were introduced into the area that can harm and or disturb the Akohekohe and other native Forest Birds in Maui’s Forests.