ʻIʻiwi and Hāhāʻaiakamanu
Selected in the 2020 Audubon Photography Top 100 images.
ʻIʻiwi foraging in hāhāʻaiakamanu a rare plant in the bell flower family
45% of proceeds from this image will go to benefit the Kauaʻi Forest Bird Recovery Project
ʻIʻiwi are perhaps the best known of the native Hawaiian bird species due in part to their bright red color and long flashy salmon colored bill. While once common ʻiʻiwi have declined by over 97% in the last 250 years due primarily to diseases spread by mosquitoes. This is especially evident on the island of Kauaʻi where the ʻiʻiwi now only numbers just over two thousand birds and is continuing to rapidly decline.
During a brief trip to Kauaʻi from Hawaiʻi Island, I was able to catch a ride with a fellow Hawaiian bird photographer up to the Pihea trail. Fortunately, it was perfect timing for the blooming of a rare endemic flower called Hāhāʻaiakamanu (Clermontia fauriei) and it was a rare sunny day in one of the wettest places in the world. To get this photograph we spent about eight hours waiting concealed near the flowering plants, with both ʻiʻiwi and Kauaʻi ʻamakihi coming to feed every 10 to 30 minutes.
Capturing the relationship between the ʻiʻiwi and the hāhāʻaiakamanu was something truly magical, both the bird and the plant have been in an evolutionary arms race for millions of years and have shaped each-other, the place, and the people of Hawaiʻi. This photo also shows a relatively new behavior termed “nectar stealing” that the birds may have learned from the invasive banana poka flower, where rather than feeding from the front of the flower the bird pierces the side to take the nectar without pollinating it.