News Release

Drawing Connections: Climate Change Threatens to Silence the Voice of the Forest

bird looks afraid as mosquitoes with avian malaria creep up mountain in the ocean
Avian malaria spread by mosquitoes threatens survival of forest birds.

NPS Photo

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News Release Date: August 13, 2021

Contact: Jin Prugsawan

Kula, Maui —The National Park Service has released a new short film called Drawing Connections: Haleakalā National Park. The film sheds light on how climate change is impacting the park’s most critical endangered species, Hawaiian honeycreepers. Honeycreepers are a unique group of forest birds found only in Hawai’i, which once had more than 50 species. Today, only 17 species remain, some with fewer than 500 individuals left. 

Driving the extinction of forest birds in Hawai’i is avian malaria, a disease transmitted by invasive Culex mosquitoes. A single bite by an infected mosquito can kill an ʻiʻiwi. As the climate warms, mosquitoes carrying avian malaria are moving upslope into the last refugia for Hawaiʻi’s forest birds.

“It is becoming very clear that the changing climate patterns are now allowing disease-carrying mosquitoes to reach our native forest birds at the highest elevations that they occur. This is no longer a matter of disease simply limiting the range of these birds.” said Chris Warren, Forest Bird Biologist at Haleakalā National Park.

Warren added, “We are on the brink of losing a number of species in the next few years as a direct result of changing temperature and precipitation patterns. If we cannot control avian malaria and its mosquito vector, we will lose these species, and my heart breaks to say that.”

To watch the film and learn more about climate change and forest birds, visit: www.nps.gov/hale/learn/nature/saving-our-forest-birds.htm

To learn more about climate change impacts in National Parks, visit: www.nps.gov/subjects/climatechange/index.htm 

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Last updated: August 13, 2021

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