We heard the sweet, staccato song of Hawaiian Palila on and off all day as we roamed the range of this golden-yellow bird, one of the most endangered and treasured species on the islands.
But the Palila always seemed to stay just out of sight, living up to its status as one of the rarest of the islands’ birds, found only on the upper reaches of the Big Island’s highest mountain.
We were visiting with Chris Farmer, the Hawaii program director for the American Bird Conservancy. Chris has spent so much time working with this and other native birds that he’s kind of a Palila whisperer. Sometimes he alone would hear the unique song, usually coming from the other side of the stands of mamane trees that dominate the dry forest.
Hawaii is a magical and complicated place for birds, particularly forest birds like the critically endangered Palila. The native birds face unrelenting pressure from habitat loss, invasive species, diseases and changing climate. They evolved in an era of few predators but now face them at every turn.