Apapane Care Sheet

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Scientific Facts

Common Name:Apapane
Scientific Name:Himatione Sanguinea
Length:About 13 cm
Life Span:Around 11 years
Clutch Size:2 to 4 eggs
Habitat:Wet Forests
Country of Origin:Hawaii

Physical Description

The Apapane species is a Hawaiian honeycreeper bird that is considered as endemic to Hawaii. They feature bright crimson feathers which were used to adorn the mahiole (helmets), ‘ahu’ula (capes), and na lei hulu (feather leis) of the ali’I, or the Hawaiian nobility.

The adult apapane has a small size, with an overall length of 13 cm, or 5.1 inches. The males have a weight of 16 g, and the females have an average weight of 14.4 g. These birds have a distinct gender difference in terms of size.

Adult apapanes feature a bright crimson-colored top and back, white under tail and bottom, with black legs and wings. A distinct feature of the apapane is their white undertail coverts that can be clearly seen when their tail is cocked. This white under tail appearance is a unique feature that clearly separates them from other related native birds.

Juveniles, on the other hand, are pink upon hatching, covered with patches of pale brownish feathers. This brown color then turns into crimson when they reach maturity. Aside from crimson, they can also develop black, white, and gray colors, along with small black eyes and a brown outline. The back of the birds’ wings, as well as its tails,  are black in color, while the back bottom has a grayish-white color.

Habitat and Range

Apapanes are typically found in wet and mesic forests filled by Metrosideros Polymorpha and Acacia Koa trees. The habitat in which they thrive is also typically filled with Myrsine Lessertiana, Myoporum sandwicense, Cibotium spp, and tree ferns. It is also common to see Sophora Chrysophylla in the high elevation of their foraging habitat.

Most apapanes are present at elevations above 4,100 feet, keeping them away from mosquitoes. They also live on the islands of Maui, Hawai’i, Kaua’i, Lana’i, O’ahu, and Moloka’i. Most apapanes survive in Hawai’I where about 1, 000, 000 of them thrive in the higher forests, particularly in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The next big group is found on the island of Maui. Most of them are found in protected forest locations on the Haleakala slopes. Most of the birds survive in protected reserves, including the Alaka’I Wilderness Preserve, in Kaua’i. Others are scattered in both Lana’I and O’ahu.

These birds are observed to form small flocks as they forage through the canopies of Metrosideros Polymorpha trees. They also drink nectars out of the flowers, while simultaneously pollinating them. They seem to avoid foraging forest floors. When the flowering is low, or if they are not part of a flock, these birds are usually chased away from flowers by more competitive and aggressive birds such as the i’iwi and ‘akohekohe.

Sound and Call

These birds are described as active singers. Males are famous for their singing patterns almost throughout the day and are known for their six different calls, as well as around ten different recorded call patterns. The song or contact call produced by males is primarily for attracting mates and breeding. The male bird who sings the loudest and is most aggressive is usually the one who will win the attention of a female bird.

The male continues to sing during incubation. The female, on the other hand, does not sing at all. The chirping sound and loud whistling works in chasing other male birds away out of the nesting tree, while he continues to sit on a nearby perch and guarding the nest.

Feeding and Diet

Apapanes feed generally on flower nectars, usually from the Metrosideros Polymorpha tree. These birds are found mainly in Koa and Ohi’a Lehua forests, where there are many of these flowers. Even though these birds are described primarily as nectarivorous, the diet of an adult bird may also include some insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, as well as different types of bugs.

These birds are observed to feed on the flowers of coconut palms, as well as umbrella trees. They also forage throughout the entire day, though they are most active during the first and the last two hours of the day.

Courtship and Breeding

Once pair formation and courtship has already been established, and copulation completed, both the male and female birds will then work together in completing the nesting process. The role of the male bird is important in terms of providing food during the courtship period, especially during the construction of the nest, as well as the incubation period.

The breeding season among Apapanes starts from January to July. Their nest is placed usually in the crown of Metrosideros Polymorpha nests, which are typically found in lava tubes and tree cavities, as well as in the top of Acacia Koa trees and Cibotium tree ferns.

Only the females incubate the eggs. After the eggs hatch, both males and females feed their young, caring for them until they become ready to fly out on their own at the right time. The females usually lay up to 2 to 4 eggs a year. These eggs usually feature white with red markings all over.

The incubation period usually lasts for 13 to 14 days. Within this period, the female parent does not sing at all. Chicks are born with their eyes closed. It usually takes up to four days for them to be able to open their eyes and start seeing. During the sixth day, brown feather blotches start to appear on their back, while the lining of their mouth is pink. After a few more days, the chicks become multicolored. They usually come in colors of pink, gold, green, red and black. They are usually weaned in a month, though they can stay up to four months, even up to a year with their parents.


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This species is known for its two distinct flight patterns, a circling flight, and a straight flight. They are agile and mobile birds. They have a similar flight pattern with finches. Seeing them on the ground is quite rare, as they are either perching or flying in a tree. They bathe by either staying on a branch while raining or flies into wet vegetation.

Out of the breeding season, they travel together in small flocks. When they come in contact with other species, apapanes are the subordinates. Due to their aggressive behavior, they are often pushed to nest and forage on less desirable habitat patches.

Threats and Conservation

This species lives in high altitudes in order to protect itself against predators such as rats, small Asian mongooses, as well as deadly mosquitoes. These predators serve as the main cause of the decline of the Apapane population. Even though they are considered low in terms of numbers, they are not classified as endangered species.

These birds also fall victim to avian malaria, often caused by seasonal migrations to lower elevation forests, putting them in close contact with mosquitoes. Death by malaria is typically caused by anemia. Another disease that is common among apapanes is Fowlpox, which is also transmitted by mosquitoes. This illness causes wart-like lesions from around specific areas, including the eyes, legs, beak, and feet. This, in turn, inhibits them from seeing, feeding, or perching.

As of the time of writing, there are no direct actions taken with this species, though efforts to help rare bird species throughout Hawaii also help the Apapanes. For example, the removal of ungulates, such as cattle, goats, and pigs, further helps in the prevention of habitat degradation. On top of that, pigs create wallows, which serve as important breeding areas for mosquitoes.

Birds that have been infected with fowlpox are also prone to malaria infection. It has been observed and assumed that at least a small portion of this species’ population is more at risk of infection with malaria since some pairs have been observed to breed in mid-elevation forests, where the malaria transmission rate is high.

Some of their habitats, such as the locations under federal jurisdiction, are also managed with the implementation of fencing strategies that are employed by resource managers. However, there are still unattended areas which are highly degraded, with many pre-management ungulates that help in creating habitat for mosquitoes and other predators.

Roles in the Ecosystem

Since these birds are mainly nectivores, they serve as pollinators. They play on the role on the island of Hawaii since this place produces high levels of fruit sets, as well as the breeding of plants that serve as food sources. They keep the native species of plants alive through the encroachment of invasive plant species.

They also help in generating ecotourism for Hawaii. This, in turn, stimulates the economy, increasing the creation of jobs, while helping in the education and supporting conservation. Each year, around 7.5 million visitors come to the islands for ecotourism. These visitors contribute more than $9 billion every year. Tourism serves as one of the primary contributors to revenue in Hawaii. The population provided by these birds also helps in increasing the native tree species that creates attraction to tourists.

Negative Impact on Humans

The most important aspect of the effects of these birds on the economy can also serve as the worst aspects for humans. Without tourism boosted by the presence of apapanes, the economy could end up losing a lot of revenue. Tourism has also resulted in a lot of problems in terms of natural attractions on the islands. Pollution is destroyed, and habitats are destroyed along with the high volumes of people that come into the islands. When these attractions are affected and disappear, the tourists, along with the entire economy, will also suffer.


Flight provides the adult birds an advantage when it comes to escaping predation, though the same cannot really be said for the young ones. The nestlings and eggs are at most risk of predation. The two primary predators of the young birds are black rats and feral cats. Even though flight helps the birds to escape, there are other predators that can fly. For example, the Pueo and the Hawaiian Hawk prey on young and adult apapanes. Other predators may also include the Polynesian rat, Norway rat, mongoose, and Barn owls.

How to Care for an Apapane

It is not common to have apapanes as a pet. However, just like with other rare bird species, they can be kept for rehabilitation. In terms of feeding, it is often best to mimic the type of food they have in the wild. Despite being nectivorous, they also occasionally consume spiders and insects. While it may not be easy to look for commercially available pure nectars, there are available commercial insect feeds for these birds.

Where to Find Apapanes

While it may be difficult to find apapanes it the wild, they can be observed in some preserves and parks. One such preserve is the Hawaii Volcanoes, National Park. This park has mostly insects and birds, among which are the apapanes.

FAQ Section

Where are apapanes usually found?

Apapanes are Hawaiian honeycreepers, and they are considered as endemic to Hawaii. They are spread throughout the islands of Hawaii.

What kind of sound does an Apapane make?

This species is an active singer. Males have singing patterns that they make throughout the day. They have six different calls, with around ten different recorded song patterns.

How big is an apapane?

An adult bird has a small size, with an overall length of 13 cm when they are fully grown.

What kind of food do Apapanes eat?

Apapanes usually feed on nectar from flowers. However, they also eat a variety of insects, such as caterpillars, grasshoppers, and different types of bugs.

When does breeding season happen among apapanes?

The breeding season usually starts from January from July. The incubation period usually lasts from 13 to 14 days. Within this period, the females do not sing at all.

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