Project Profile: Address Impacts of Avian Malaria in Hawaii

a light yellow bird with curved beak, the kiwikiu or maui parrotbill
Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill)

C. Robby Kohley

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
Invasive Species | FY22 $6M

The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with many other agencies and organizations, will use biological control methods to suppress invasive mosquito populations to reduce avian malaria and prevent the extinction of several federally threatened and endangered native forest bird populations at Haleakalā National Park.

Why? East Maui contains remarkable biodiversity found nowhere else on earth and excellent habitat for native forest birds between 3,500’ and 7,000’ elevation. However, native forest birds are declining in these habitats and two species are now limited to above 5,500’, where cold-intolerant Culex mosquitoes and avian malaria have yet to establish a firm, year-round presence. Recent work found the density and population size of these two bird species has declined by 50% during the last two decades, with only 150 Kiwikiu (Maui parrotbill) and 1,750 ākohekohe (Maui crested honeycreeper) remaining in the wild.

What Else? The NPS, Hawaiʻi Department of Lands and Natural Resources, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have completed compliance, registration, permitting, and planning for use of a naturally occurring bacteria known as Wolbachia, to reduce the mosquito vector of avian malaria. Male mosquitoes infected with the bacteria can mate but don’t produce offspring, causing populations to crash. This technique has been used successfully on islands around the world and other places throughout the United States.

Haleakalā National Park

Last updated: October 6, 2023