Poouli

Melamprosops phaeosoma TAXONOMY

Melamprosops phaeosoma Casey Jacobi 1974. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Black-faced honeycreeper; French: Po-o-uli masqué; German: Mauigimpel; Spanish: Puli.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

5.5 in (15 cm); 0.9 oz (25.5 g). Differs from all other honeycreeper species in odor, tongue structure, and vocalizations, and its color pattern is unique among all Hawaiian native birds. In 1992 some ornithologists proposed excluding the po'o-uli from the Drepanididae, but this was not carried, and as of 2002, the species was included. Main color brown, male's crown is gray merging into dark brown on nape, belly is buff washed with brown. Most striking and memorable feature is black mask offset by white throat. Has short, black, finchlike bill and long, pale legs. Female is similarly colored, but more cryptically.

DISTRIBUTION

Northeastern slope of Haleakala Crater on Maui. HABITAT

Lives just below timberline in rainy (up to 550 in [14 m] a year), high-altitude, nearly impassable ohia forest draped in epiphytic mosses, lichens, and ferns.

BEHAVIOR

Spend most of their time foraging in dense forests in small family groups. Seldom vocalize, main calls are single or repetitive "chit."

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Hop along tree limbs, tearing apart epiphytes and loose bark with finchlike bills and gleaning leaves and bark in the sub-canopy and understory, searching for beetles, spiders, and other invertebrates, especially land snails. Only honeycreeper to prefer land snails as major dietary item.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Breeds February to June; lays one or two eggs in a cup nest. CONSERVATION STATUS

Critically Endangered. As of 2001, only three individuals (two females and one male), are known. Invasive rats probably main agents of this near extinction.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS A rallying symbol for conservation. ♦

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