Chloridops kona Wilson

Kona Grosbeak (Chloridops kona)

The Kona Grosbeak was discovered at the end of the 19th century, at that time it was restricted to a tiny, only about 10 km² large area in the north of the Kona district on the island of Hawai’i.

This rather plump and inconspicuous looking bird fed almost exclusively on the dried seeds of the Naio tree (Myoporum sandwicense (A. Gray)), and could often be located by the cracking sound of its feeding.

R. C. L. Perkins was one of the few people, that saw the bird in life, he wrote about it in the year 1893.:

The Palila (Chloridops kona), though an interesting bird on account of its peculiar structure, is a singularly uninteresting one in its habits. It is a dull, sluggish, solitary bird, and very silent – its whole existence may be summed up in the words “to eat.” Its food consists of the seeds of the fruit of the aaka (bastard sandal-tree [Myoporum sandwicense (A. Gray)], and probably in other seasons of those of the sandal-wood tree), and as these are very minute, its whole time seems to be taken up in cracking the extremely hard shells of this fruit, for which its extraordinarily powerful beak and heavy head have been developed. I think there must have been hundreds of the small white kernels in those that I examined. The incessant cracking of the fruits when one of these birds is feeding, the noise of which can be heard for a considerable distance, renders the bird much easier to see than it otherwise would be. … I never heard it sing (once mistook the young Rhodacanthis’ song for that of Chloridops), but my boy informed me that he had heard it once, and its song was not like that of Rhodacanthis. Only once did I see it display any real activity, when a male and female were in active pursuit of one another amongst the sandal-trees. Its beak is nearly always very dirty, with a brown substance adherent to it, which must be derived from the sandal-tree.

Note, that the name Palila is actually the Hawaiian vernacular name for another drepanidine bird species – Loxioides bailleui (Oustalet).

The last living Kona Grosbeaks were seen in the year 1894.



[1] R. C. L. Perkins: Notes on Collecting in Kona. The Ibis 6(5): 101-111. 1893
[2] D. Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986
[3] H. D. Pratt; P. L. Bruner; D. G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987
[4] E. Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987
[5] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005


Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’

by courtesy of Erin Clements Rushing


Ptilinopus goodwinii Holyoak

Lilac-crowned Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus goodwinii)


Cook Islands: ‘Atiu, Ma’uke

local names:

kukupa – ‘Atiu / Cook Islands


This Lilac-crowned Fruit Dove is officially treated as a subspecies of the Rarotongan Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus rarotongensis Hartlaub & Finsch) from the island of Rarotonga, Cook Islands, yet differs quite much from that species and can be separated as a distinct species.

The species is now restricted to the island of ‘Atiu, Cook Islands, but another subspecies, not yet formally described, formerly inhabited the neighboring island of Ma’uke.


Historical records of fruit doves from the islands of Aitutaki and Mangaia, Cook Islands, are most likely best regarded as distinct species as well.


edited: 01.01.2019

Pomarea gambieranus (Lesson)

Mangarevan Flycatcher (Pomarea gambieranus)

This very enigmatic bird was found in the year 1840 on the island of Mangareva, the largest of the Gambier Islands, and was described in the year 1844 as Lanius gambieranus.

The sole known specimen does not exist anymore, as does the only depiction of this specimen. The description is not very meaningful, the bird had a size of 14 cm, was brown on the upper side, yellowish colored on the underside.


In my opinion, it is quite possible that this is indeed a monarch flycatcher species, possibly from the genus Pomarea or alternatively from another, yet completely distinct, now extinct genus.



[1] J.-C. Thibault; A. Cibois: From early Polynesian settlements to present: bird extinctions in the Gambier Islands. Pacific Science 66(3): 1-26. 2011

Ducula galeata (Bonaparte)

Nukuhiva Imperial Pigeon (Ducula galeata)

For a very long time this bird was thought to be endemic to the Marquesan island of Nuku Hiva – this, however, turned out to be far from the truth.

In fact, in historical times this species had a much wider geographical range, including the Cook Islands, as well as the Society Islands, and of course all of the Marquesan Islands as well. The birds were extirpated from most of their former range already by the Polynesian settlers, and had their last refuge on the island of Nuku Hiva – a situation that is called artificial endemism (… in fact, there are several other bird species within Polynesia that share the same situation …).

The Nukuhiva Imperial Pigeon is a huge bird, reaching about 55 cm from the tip of its bill to the tip of its tail, it is therefore the largest surviving pigeon species in Polynesia.

Nevertheless the bird is far from being flightless.

The endangered species was reintroduced to another of the Marquesasn islands, Ua Huka, were it is breeding since, and the future of this impressive species seems to be a good and save one.


Photo: Virginie & Fabien (fabvirge); by courtesy of Virginie & Fabien (fabvirge)

Petrochelidon ariel (Gould)

Fairy Martin (Petrochelidon ariel)

The Fairy Martin is native to Australia, where it inhabits open country near water, and is usually seen near its nest sites in cliffs, culverts, or bridges. The birds nest in colonies, the nests are distinctive large bottle-shaped constructions of mud pellets, built against the wall or ceiling of a cave, a cliff, or a building. [1]


The Fairy Martin is mentioned here because it appears to have bred, at least one time, in New Zealand (two distinctive bottle-shaped nests were found in shed near Lake Wairarapa in the 1970s).

The species increasingly wanders to New Zealand, and it may again breed there in the future. [1]



[1] B. D. Heather; H. A. Robertson; D. J. Onley: Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Oxford University Press, USA 1997



Photo: Jim Bendon

(under creative commons licence (2.0))

Acrocephalus aequinoctialis (Latham)

Kiribati Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis)

The 16 cm long Kiribati Reed-Warbler is the only (recent) resident passerine bird in Kiribati, all other passerines possibly seen there are winter visitors.

The species can be split into two subspecies (in fact they may even represent three – but this need further investigation), both show a grey and white plumage and differ only slightly from each other.

The Kiribati Reed-Warbler was first described in 1790 from the giant atoll of Kiritimati, where its total population today is estimated at only 300 to 400 birds.

Another form was discovered in 1881 on the small atoll of Tabuaeran, 224 km northwest of Kiritimati, it was described as a distinct subspecies (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis ssp. pistor Tristram) in 1883, but was last seen in the year 1924, and is now considered extinct.

Again, another form was discovered in 1921 on the island of Teraina, 120 km northwest of Tabuaeran, and this was subsequently assigned to the ssp. pistor (but may indeed by a distinct third subspecies).

In Kiribati this bird is called bokikokiko resp. kokikokiko.



Tabuaeran Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus aequinoctialis ssp. pistor)

Depiction from: ‘H. B. Tristram: On the Position of the Acrocephaline Genus Tatare, with the Descriptions of two new species of the Genus Acrocephalus. The Ibis 5(1): 38-46. 1883′

Pomarea fluxa Murphy & Mathews

Eiao Flycatcher (Pomarea fluxa)

The Central Polynesian flycatcher species are all restricted to native forests, they inhabit small territories, which they aggressively defend against congeners, including their own offspring.

All these species lay only a single egg, which, of course, is very vulnerable to predation by introduced rats.

The few still existing species are all close to extinction, and perhaps many species are already extinct without leaving even a single trace of their former existence! The islands of Aitutaki, ‘Atiu, Mangaia, Ma’uke, Miti’aro, and Rarotonga in the Cook Archipelago for example, as well as Bora Bora, Huahine, Maupiti, Mo’orea, Ra’iatea, Tahiti, and Taha’a in the Society Archipelago may once all have had local species of the genus Pomarea, yet only three of them are definitively known!


This species, the Eiao Flycatcher, as its name implies, inhabited the island of Eiao in the north of the Marquesas Archipelago. It was described in the year 1928, and was considered a subspecies of the Iphis Flycatcher (Pomarea iphis (Murphy & Mathews)) from the island of Ua Huka for a long time, which, in a geographical context, makes not much sense.

The bird reached a size of about 17 cm, the sexes differed in their coloration, the males had a black head and neck and black wings, the back and the throat were mottled black and white, while the females were brownish above and whitish below, with the throat heavily streaked brown.



[1] H. D. Pratt; P. L. Bruner; D. G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987

Alopecoenas nui (Steadman)

Giant Ground Dove (Alopecoenas nui)

The Giant Ground Dove is known only from subfossil bones which were found on the islands of Mangaia, Cook Islands; Kamaka, Gambier Islands; Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Ua Huka, Marquesas as well as Huahine, Society Islands.

The species was sympatric on the Cook-, Gambier- and Society Islands with the smaller Polynesian Ground Dove (Alopecoenas erythroptera (Gmelin)) and on the Marquesan Islands with the Marquesas Ground Dove (Alopecoenas rubescens (Vieillot)), and perhaps with additional, yet extinct species.

The Giant Ground Dove was no true giant, but was still larger than all its Polynesian congeners, reaching a size of about 36 cm.



[1] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University Of Chicago Press 2006
[2] Jean-Claude Thibault; Alice Cibois: From early Polynesian settlements to present: bird extinctions in the Gambier Islands. Pacific Science 66(3): 1-26. 2011
[3] Knud A. Jønsson; Martin Irestedt; Rauri C. K. Bowie; Les Christidis; Jon Fieldså: Systematics and biogeography of Indo-Pacific ground-doves. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 59: 538-543. 2011

Nesofregetta fuliginosa (Gmelin)

Polynesian Storm-Petrel (Nesofregetta fuliginosa)


Austral Islands: Rapa
Cook Islands: Mangaia
Gambier Islands: Manui, Motu Teiku
Kiribati: Kiritimati, McKean, Rawaki
Marquesas: Ua Huka
Rapa Nui: Motu Motiro Hiva

local names:

kitai – Marquesas
korue – Tahanea / Tuamotu Archipelago
taio – Samoa
te bwebwe ni marawa – Phoenix Islands / Kiribati


This species is endemic to the tropical Pacific where it breeds in parts of Melanesia (Vanuatu) well into eastern Polynesia, it is, however, mostly seen far away from its breeding grounds at sea where it searches for food.

The Polynesian Storm-Petrel is an about 25 cm large seabird, of which several color morphs are known to exist of which some were even considered to represent distinct species in former times, for example a remarkably dark morph that appears to be restricted to Samoa was formerly named as Samoan Storm-Petrel.

The species appears to prefer to breed on smaller, uninhabited islands where it is still quite rare, the breeding population on the island of Rawaki, Kiribati, for example, consits of only about 20 pairs. One of the largest known populations with about 100 birds breeds on the small and uninhabited Motu Motiro Hiva (Sala y Gómez). [1][3]



[1] Government of Kiribati: Phoenix Islands Protected Area, Kiribati, Nomination for a World Heritage Site 2009
[2] S. Waugh; J. Champeau; S. Cranwell; L. Faulquier: Seabirds of the Gambier Archipelago, French Polynesia, in 2010. Marine Ornithology 41: 7-12. 2013
[3] Marcelo A. Flores, Roberto P. Schlatter; Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete: Seabirds of Easter Island, Salas y Gómez Island and Desventuradas Islands, southeastern Pacific Ocean. Latin american Journal of Aquatic Research 42(4): 752-759. 2014


Photo: Diego Valverde

(under creative commons license (4.0))


edited: 20.12.2018

Megavitiornis altirostris Worthy

Deep-billed ‘Megapode’ (Megavitiornis altirostris)

This enigmatic extinct species, described in 2000 from subfossil remains, is in fact not a megapode but a member of a not well known family, the Sylviornitidae, whose only other member is the likewise enigmatic and extinct New Caledonian Giant ‘Megapode’ (Sylviornis neocaledoniae Poplin) from New Caledonia.

The Deep-billed ‘Megapode’ was a large, flightless bird, that probably fed particularely on plants and invertebrates, and is so far known only from the island of Viti Levu, Fiji.

The species of course was a very rewarding target for the first human settlers and hunters on the Fijian Islands, and thus was very fast wiped out by them. [1][2]



[1] David W. Steadman: Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. University Of Chicago Press 2006
[2] Trevor H. Worthy; Miyess Mitri; Warren D. Handley; Michael S. Y. Lee; Atholl Anderson; Christophe Sand: Osteology supports a stem-galliform affinity for the giant extinct flightless bird Sylviornis neocaledoniae (Sylviornithidae, Galloanseres). PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150871. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150871. 2016


edited: 22.04.2016