Palila -- 黄胸管舌雀 (Loxioides bailleui)

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Palila fact file

Palila description

GenusLoxioides (1)

The distinctive two-syllable whistle-like call of this bird used to be thought of as a sign of impending rain by the inhabitants of Hawaii, but the birds now occupies just 10% of its original range, and is only heard on the slopes of Mauna Kea (4). It is a large, brightly coloured finch species, with a short, rounded bill. The head and breast are golden-yellow, contrasting with the black bill and area surrounding the eye. The back is blue-grey and the underparts are white. The wing and tail feathers are dark grey or black with broad golden edges. Females and juveniles are less brightly coloured than males and have a dark hind neck (2). Juveniles have a complete or partial dark bar across the wing (5).

Length: 19 cm (2)

Palila biology

Between March and August, the female palila constructs a nest out of grasses, stems, roots and bark in the branches of the mamane tree (Sophora chrysophylla), and lines it with lichen and leaves (4). After mating, the female lays two eggs and incubates them for 17 days, being fed by the male during this time (6). After the eggs have hatched, both the male and the female work to bring food to the nestlings, who fledge after 31 days (4).

The palila eats the unripe seeds of the mamane plant (Sophora chrysophylla) as well as the moth larvae (Cydia spp.) that feed on the same seeds (6). As the birds feed they call melodiously, but calls at dawn and dusk are louder and sharper (4).


Palila range

Found mainly on the slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawaii, having been locally abundant across the island at the beginning of the 20th century (2).


Palila habitat

Inhabits sub-alpine forest at altitudes of between 2,000 and 3,000 metres (2).


Palila status

The palila is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is classified as Endangered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered


Palila threats

The sub-alpine forest occupied by the birds has been severely over-browsed by sheep and goats, and palila nests are preyed upon by feral cats, introduced rats and the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus). It is thought that introduced grasses suppress the regeneration of the palila’s main food source, the mamane, as well as increasing the risk of fire. The spread of feral pigs is also expected to suppress mamane regeneration (2).


Palila conservation

The recent removal of sheep and goats from Mauna Kea’s slopes has allowed some mamane regeneration, but re-colonisation of suitable habitat is proving more difficult than expected (2). The birds will return to its home range following human intervention (7), as was found when several pairs were translocated in 1993 (2). A larger translocation was attempted in 2002 to test whether a more natural social environment and a larger pool of potential mates might encourage the translocated birds to remain in their new area. Several captive breeding programmes have been implemented with some early successes (2).

Hawaii State and the U.S. federal agencies have begun programmes to control rats and cats on the island, and to reforest areas surrounding the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve (2). However, in 2009 the IUCN upgraded the birds from Endangered to Critically Endangered because of a dramatic and rapid decline since 2005 (2), and the future of the species is uncertain.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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When individuals from one area have been transferred and released or planted in another area.
The transfer of individuals from one area for release or planting in another.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
  2. BirdLife International (May, 2009)
  3. Hawaiian Biological Survey (December, 2004)
  4. Hawaiian State Government (December, 2004)
  5. Jeffery, J.J., Fancy, S.G., Lindsey, G.D., Banko, P.C., Pratt, T.K. and Jacobi, J.D. (1993) Sex and age identification of palila. Journal of Field Ornithology, 64(4): 490 - 499.
  6. Pletschet, S.M. and Kelly, J.F. (1990) Breeding biology and nesting success of palila. Condor, 92(4): 1012 - 1021.
  7. Fancy, S.G., Sugihara, R.T., Jeffery, J.J. and Jacobi, J.D. (1993) Site-tenacity of the endangered palila. Wilson Bulletin, 105(4): 587 - 596.

Image credit


© Caleb Slemmons

Caleb Slemmons
7498 Co Rd 44
N. Lewisburg
United States of America


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