Inaugural Honeycreepers Celebration Day in Hawaiʻi to raise awareness for endangered species
The Hawai‘i State Legislature passed a resolution recognizing Aug. 8, 2023 as the inaugural Honeycreepers Celebration Day that was inspired by the American Bird Conservancy, local artists, conservationists, students and teachers.
The date was selected to channel Hawai‘i’s telephone area code 808.
The goal is to raise awareness and support for Hawaiian honeycreeper ongoing conservation efforts.
“Honeycreepers Celebration Day is the culmination of the efforts of over 2,000 haumāna (students) and their kumu (teachers) who championed passing this resolution in the past legislative session,” said Luka Zavas, Outreach Manager for the American Bird Conservancy’s Hawai‘i program. “We are so proud of them and welcome everyone to join us in celebrating this achievement and the efforts that help prevent Hawaiian honeycreepers from going extinct.”
Starting in October 2022, ABC, Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, and Kamehameha Schools Kaiāulu introduced a curriculum to inspire the next generation to protect its unique, native birds through civic engagement.
This new honeycreeper curriculum took students on an avian journey through the geological, evolutionary and ecological history of Hawai‘i. The curriculum presented cultural significance and a strong conservation message, explaining the importance and challenges of saving the remaining honeycreeper species.
This inspired the children of Hawai‘i, from kindergarten to high school, to use their voices to advocate for a day to shine a light upon the relationships they have with the surviving native honeycreepers.
Across four hearings, students passionately spoke about the urgency in protecting the remaining honeycreeper species and sharing the names of the birds, both those still with us and those that have gone extinct.
In extensive written testimony spanning hundreds of pages, students expressed their support through traditional writing, as well as creative mediums like comic strips, poems and artwork. Additionally, some students delivered their testimonies in both English and Hawaiian, highlighting their deep connection to the birds.
Once a bird paradise, Hawai‘i is now the bird extinction capital of the world with many species on the brink and more at risk of disappearing in our lifetime. Since human settlement of the islands, 95 of 142 bird species found nowhere else have become extinct in Hawai‘i.
Most of the remaining bird populations have been substantially reduced by invasive species and habitat loss, and the honeycreepers, including Kiwikiu and ‘I‘iwi, have been hit particularly hard by nonnative diseases transmitted by invasive mosquitoes.
Of the more than 50 species of honeycreepers endemic to Hawai‘i, only 17 remain, with 12 of those at risk of imminent extinction. Most birds that people encounter in Hawai‘i today are nonnative species such as House Finches and Northern Cardinals, leaving native birds out of sight and out of mind.
Found in higher elevation forests, many of the at-risk endemic species are far away from urban lowlands and beaches where residents and visitors tend to congregate, and many people never get to experience the birds. Through the recognition of Honeycreepers Celebration Day, the American Bird Conservancy and its partners hope to reignite local relationships with native bird species for many generations to come.
For more information, visit birdsnotmosquitoes.org/celebrate808.