Critically endangered
How We're Helping to Save Hawaiian Forest Birds

Conservation Status: Puaiohi, IUCN Red List – Critically Endangered; Palila, IUCN Red List – Critically Endangered; ‘Akikiki and ‘Akeke’e, IUCN Red List – Critically Endangered; Nene, IUCN Red List – Vulnerable; Kiwikiu, IUCN Red List – Critically Endangered

Threats to survival: Habitat loss and degradation; predation by introduced species; introduced diseases; drought



In the mid-1990s, the wild puaiohi population was estimated at only 200 individuals. As a result, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance established a managed population by working with our partners to collect eggs from Kauai’s Alaka‘i Plateau in 1996 and 1997. Subsequent successful breeding at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers resulted in the release of 222 puaiohi back into the wild by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance team between 1999 and 2012. The puaiohi population in the wild has since increased to approximately 500-800 birds. In 2016, we conducted our last puaiohi release, thus allowing room for other endangered birds in our breeding centers.


Since first successfully breeding palila at the Keauhou Bird Conservation Center in 2000, we have released 28 individuals into the wild. We continue to breed this species with the goal of releasing additional birds into the wild in the future.

‘Akikiki and ‘Akeke‘e

‘Akikiki and ‘akeke‘e populations in the wild have declined rapidly over the past few decades. Found only on the island of Kauai, the wild ‘akikiki population declined from approximately 6,800 individuals in 1973 to just 350 individuals today. The wild ‘akeke’e population has also rapidly declined to an estimated 750 individuals today. Our Recovery Ecology team has collected eggs from these two species from the wild to initiate breeding populations at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers, with the goal of releasing birds into the wilderness in the future and saving these species from extinction.


The wild population of nene (pronounced nay-nay), Hawaii’s state bird, was estimated at 600 individuals in the mid-1990s. To supplement the wild population, we bred nene at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers and have released 442 birds into the wilderness between 1996 and 2011. The wild population has since increased to 2,500 individuals throughout the state and the population is now stable. Our success with nene allows us to focus on species in greater need.

Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill)

Kiwikiu is a challenging species to breed due to its low reproductive output of one egg per clutch. We are breeding a small number of birds at the Keauhou and Maui Bird Conservation Centers. We are also working in collaboration with the American Bird Conservancy, Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, and State Division of Forestry and Wildlife to establish a second wild population of kiwikiu on the leeward slopes of Haleakala on the Island of Maui.

Our Partners

Science Blog