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Research Case: Extinction of the Hawaiian Honeycreeper

January 15, 2008 – April 17, 2008

Museum: Natural History Museum

Sponsor: Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Location: Ground Floor, Constitution Ave. Lobby, East Side

The Hawaiian Islands were one of the last places on Earth to be settled by humans. The first people arrived on the islands between 1,300 and 1,000 years ago and brought major ecological changes: Forests were cleared for agriculture, and more recently, non-native species have been introduced, including the mongoose (which eats birds) and the mosquito (which carries avian malaria). These changes have led to the decline of Hawaiian native birds; at least 55 species have gone extinct since the arrival of humans. The Hawaiian honeycreepers exemplify this decline.

Objects on view include:

  • a specimen of a Hawaiian honeycreeper, Kaua'i'Akialoa (Hemignathus procerus), last seen alive in the 1960s
  • an image of examples of Hawaiian honeycreepers
  • a book about Hawaiian birds from 1890-99
  • a journal article about a newly identified extinct honeycreeper from 2003
  • an image of museum scientist Helen James, Division of Birds