An assessment of arthropod prey resources at Nakula Natural Area Reserve, a potential site of reintroduction for kiwikiu (Pseudonestor xanthophrys) and Maui alauahio (Paroreomyza montana)















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Hawaiian forest birds have declined dramatically since humans arrived in the archipelago. Birds from all foraging guilds have been affected but insectivorous species are currently at greatest risk of extinction. On the island of Maui, populations and ranges of the insectivorous kiwikiu (Maui parrotbill; Pseudonestor xanthophrys) and Maui ‘alauahio (Maui creeper; Paroreomyza montana) have declined significantly from historic levels primarily due to habitat loss, predation, disease, and food web disruption, leading to federal listings of endangered species and species of concern, respectively. Recovery plans for these birds include reestablishment of populations in parts of their former range. Nakula Natural Area Reserve on the leeward side of Haleakalā Volcano has been targeted for release of wild-caught or captive-bred individuals. The mesic, montane koa-‘ōhi‘a (Acacia koa-Metrosideros polymorpha) forest at Nakula has been heavily impacted through grazing by feral ungulates, but recent management actions to exclude these animals are promoting forest recovery. The objective of this study was to assess the arthropod prey base at Nakula in preparation for reintroductions of kiwikiu and Maui ‘alauahio. To accomplish that goal, we compared arthropod abundances at Nakula to those at Hanawi Natural Area Reserve and Waikamoi Preserve, areas where kiwikiu and Maui ‘alauahio are currently found. We also identified diets of kiwikiu and Maui ‘alauahio from fecal samples to better understand and evaluate the prey base at Nakula. Assessment methods included clipping branch tips to sample arthropods within the foliage of koa and ‘ōhi‘a, using traps to quantify arthropods on koa and ‘ōhi‘a bark surfaces, counting exit holes to quantify abundances of beetles (Coleoptera) within dead branches of koa, and measuring the density of arthropods within the stems of ‘ākala (Rubus hawaiiensis). The diet of kiwikiu was dominated by caterpillars (Lepidoptera larvae), which comprised 90% of all prey items for 50 adult birds and 98% of all prey for two nestlings. Caterpillars were also the most important prey for Maui ‘alauahio (43% for 104 adult birds) although spiders (Araneae, 16%), beetles (12%) and true bugs, planthoppers and psyllids (Hemiptera; 12%) were also important. Caterpillars were generally the most abundant type of arthropod in the foliage of koa and ‘ōhi‘a, although spiders, beetles and hemipterans were also common. Total arthropod biomass and caterpillar biomass at Nakula was as great, or greater, than that observed at Hanawi and Waikamoi per unit of foliage of both koa and ‘ōhi‘a. Spiders generally dominated the bark fauna on both koa and ‘ōhi‘a at all sites although isopods (Isopoda), millipedes (Myriapoda: Millipeda) and lacewings (Neuroptera) were also abundant at Waikamoi and Hanawi. Total arthropod biomass on bark, as well as the biomass of several individual taxa, was significantly lower at Nakula than the other sites. Our measurement of the density of beetle exit holes in dead koa branches found no difference between Nakula and Waikamoi. Finally, no difference existed in the abundance of arthropods (primarily caterpillars and moth pupae) within ‘ākala stems among sites. With the exception of bark surfaces, our results suggest that the arthropod prey base for birds on primary foraging substrates at Nakula is similar to that found at two sites within the current range of kiwikiu and Maui ‘alauahio. However, our results should be viewed with caution because they are limited to the scale of individual branch, tree, or ‘ākala stem. To complete the assessment, our results should be scaled up to the landscape level by determining the density of each substrate within each site. Key arthropod prey of kiwikiu and Maui ‘alauahio are available at Nakula and, as habitat restoration continues, food abundance should increase to the point at which populations of these birds can be supported.



arthropod biomass, bird reintroduction, native species





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