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Though a heavy mist often shrouds the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, it can't mask the brilliant flashes of color darting through the branches. These are the 'akepa, the 'akiapola'au, the 'i'iwi, and the 'apapane -- unique Hawaiian forest birds well matched to their magical names.

On the windward slope of Mauna Kea, on the island of Hawaii, the 32,733-acre refuge was set aside in 1985 to protect endangered forest birds and their rainforest habitat. Nine of the 14 native bird species of Hakalau are listed as endangered, and of the 29 known rare plant species in the refuge and adjacent lands, 12 are currently listed or proposed for listing as endangered.

The refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is at the forefront in developing techniques to restore the native forest. Numerous volunteers help plant native trees, shrubs, and ferns in abandoned pasture and forest clearings to revive native habitat decimated by grazing, logging and burning. Many of the more than 170,000 trees planted since 1987 have grown taller than 20 feet, and already, native forest birds such as 'apapane, 'amakihi and i'iwi are foraging and nesting among their branches.


Our thanks to Jack Jeffrey for the use of his photos, and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permission to adapt their text.

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