|Species Type||Hawai'ian Honeycreeper|
|Environment||‘ōhi‘a lehua Forests, dry side of Māui|
|Discoverer||James Jacobi & Tonnie Casey|
|Lifespan||Possibly over 20 years|
|Reproduction||Sexual; lays eggs|
|Prey||Tree snails,, and spiders|
|Predators||Introduced: pigs, rats, cats, and small Asian mongeese|
|Distinctive Features||Genetically unique|
|Feather Color||Black cap, brown and whitish-gray sections|
|Superfamily||Passeroidea (Sparrows & Finches)|
|Family||Fringillidae (True Finches)|
|Subfamily||Carduelinae (Cardueline Finches)|
The Po'o-uli (Melamprosops phaeosoma), also known as the Black-faced Honeycreeper is an extinct species of cardueline finch formerly endemic to the drier, easternmost side of the Hawai'i island of Māui.
A member of the Hawai'ian Honeycreepers, these birds had a broad black head mask extending behind the eye, with brown upper parts and pale gray or grayish-white underparts. Adults developed a silvery-gray section above the mask with shading into brown at the crown and a bold, pale patch just behind the mask whereas juveniles would look fairly similar, albeit being a bit buffier below, with a smaller mask and no gray above it.
It was believed to be the final survivor of an ancient lineage of Hawai'ian Honeycreepers as no known birds, living nor fossilized, has yet to be discovered with a structure similar to it.
Although many other cardueline finches are granivorous, the Po'o-uli was an insectivore, feeding primarily on tree snails, , and spiders. They built their nests in ‘ōhi‘a lehua trees (Metrosideros polymorpha).
According to fossil records, they appear to have formerly lived only in the dry half of Māui, across southwestern slope of Haleakalā at altitudes of 902–4,429 ft (275–1,350 metres).
Discovery, decline & extinctionEdit
The species was first discovered during the Hana Rainforest Project by two students, James Jacobi & Tonnie Casey, of the University of Hawai'i in 1973 along the northeastern slopes of Haleakalā at an altitude of 6,500 ft (1,980 metres) above sea level. This made it the first species of Hawai'ian Honeycreeper to be discovered since 1923. At this time only 100-200 members of the species were estimated to exist, with only 76 birds per kilometer2. They were apparently already in severe decline by this point however, as a decade later in 1985 their numbers appeared to have already dropped by 90%—with only an estimated 15 individuals per kilometer2 in 1981 and a mere 8 per kilometer2 by 1985. During this time period they disappeared entirely from the easternmost part of their restrictive range and could from then on only be found in the western branch of the Hanawi Stream. Contributing factors blamed for their massive decline included habitat loss; mosquito-borne diseases; predation by pigs, rats, cats, and small Asian mongeese; as well as a decline in native tree snails that the Po'o-uli relied upon for sustenance. At this point the local government set up a nature preserve in this area to try and protect it along with other endangered flora and fauna in the region.
Despite all attempts, by 1997 only 3 known individuals remained, residing within the Hanawi Natural Area Reserve and the adjacent Haleakala National Park. Desperately trying to help them survive, in 2002 the only remaining female was captured and brought to a male's home range with hopes of encouraging them to breed. This was unsuccessful as the female simply flew back to her own territory by the next day. A second attempt was made on September 9, 2004, where a team tried to move all three survivors into a conservation center with hopes of successful breeding, but they were only able to capture one of the males. Before the female could be obtained, he died on November 26 of that same year.
In 2019, the species was officially declared to be extinct. However, tissue samples were obtained from the deceased male that they had captured, with hopes of future cloning endeavors to bring the species back from the dead.