Himatione sanguineaapapane

Geographic Range

The ‘Apapane is endemic to the Hawaiian Archipelago. Its range is throughout the main Hawaiian Islands, including Hawai’I, O’ahu, and Kaua’i. The birds are rare or absent on Lana’i and Moloka’i. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997; Fancy, et al., 1993)


The ‘Apapane is found in mesic and wet native forests on the Hawaiian islands that are dominated by their favorite food source, the ‘ohi’a tree. The bird typically resides at about 1,250m in elevation, but have been found at elevations as low as 120m. They typically inhabit on the windward sides of Hawai’i, Maui, Moloka’i, O’ahu, and Kaua’i which receive about 700 to 1,000 mm of rainfall each year. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997; Reynolds, et al., 2003)

  • Range elevation
    120 to >1,250 m
    393.70 to ft

Physical Description

The ‘Apapane is a small Hawaiian honeycreeper that is approximately 13 cm in length. The birds’ bodies are primarily covered in crimson feathers with black wings and a black tail. Some of the primaries have a white edge, while some of the secondaries have a crimson edge. The undertail-coverts and abdomen are white. The thighs are a brownish black color. The birds exhibit a large, decurved, bluish-black beak that is 15 to 17 mm in length that is used for extracting nectar. Inside the beak they have a long, tubular tongue with a brush-like tip. The ‘Apapane is a sexually monochromatic songbird. The males and females can only be distinguished by size. The males are slightly heavier than the females with the male weighing 16 grams and the females weighing 14.4 grams. The juveniles have gray to brown buff plumage that covers most of their bodies with the same undertail-coverts as their parents. Due to habitat destruction caused by introduced rabbits, subspecies << Himatione sanguinea freethii>> from Layson 1 became extinct in 1923. The subspecies had a red head, throat, and breast, and had an upper abdomen with an orange tinge. The lower abdomen and underwing-coverts of the subspecies were an ashy brown color that faded into a brownish-white color on the undertail-coverts. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997; Fancy, et al., 1993)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    14.4 to 17 g
    0.51 to 0.60 oz
  • Average length
    13 cm
    5.12 in
  • Range basal metabolic rate
    7 to 8 cm3.O2/g/hr


Mating pairs start forming in January and will form as late as March. The males sing to attract a mate. The males will also be aggressive to other males when trying to solicit a mate in order to defend their territory. Before the construction of the nest, there is sexual chase. To initiate copulation, the female will crouch on a tree branch and flutter her wings. After copulation, the birds will fly off without a post-copulation display and the male will sing. Courtship feeding starts with the construction of the nest when the female depresses and flutters her wings much like the fledglings. The courtship-feeding will be at its highest rate during incubation because the female will be unable to leave the nest. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

After copulation, the nest building begins and lasts about 5 to 8 days until completion. The nest site of the ‘Apapane is variable. They usually form cup nests on branches of the ‘ohi’a and other species of trees, but their nests have been found in tree cavities and lava tubes. The nests are woven with mosses, o’hi’a twigs and leaves, lichens, bark, roots, and small rhizomes. The nests are lined with shredded grass or sedge fibers to cushion the eggs. Between 1 to 6 days after the nest is constructed, eggs are laid. The female will lay about 3 white eggs with brown speckling in a season. The female will sit on her eggs with her brood patch in direct contact with the eggs to help with thermoregulation. The male provides the food to the nesting female and will also call away from the nest. The female will not sing or call while on the nest to keep her location hidden. The ‘Apapane has altricial young so the parents have to provide more care for the nestlings. Both parents provide food for the developing chicks. The nestlings hatch almost naked, with some gray down feathers on the head, back, and wings. On day 6 after hatching, the nestlings will start to develop wing tracks and will have feathers start unsheathing on day 8. The feathers will be completely unsheathed by day 14. The nestlings are ready to fledge around day 16 where they will easily be able to fly from tree to tree. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997; van Riper III, 1973)

  • Breeding interval
  • Breeding season
    January to March
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 4
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    13 days
  • Average fledging age
    16 days
  • Average time to independence
    <4 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Before the chicks hatch, the both parents will participate in building the nest and defending the nest territory. After the chicks hatch, the female will stay close to her nestlings, but will leave the nest. The male will continue to feed the female away from the nest. Though the female still spends a lot of time on the nest, she will join the male in search of food for the nestlings. The female will sit on the nest in times of heavy rain and at night while the male still forages. Both parents aid in keeping the nest clean by removing the fecal sacs of the nestlings. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • male
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Longevity is unknown in the wild, but in captivity, ‘Apapanes can live about eleven years. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    11 year years


‘Apapanes are a mobile and agile bird. They fly similar to a finch, with a few rapid wing-beats upward and then a slight descend on closed wings. Observing the ‘Apapanes on the ground is rare as they are either flying or perching in a tree. To bathe, the bird either stays on a branch while it rains or will fly into wet vegetation. The bird has not been observed bathing in a pool. Outside of the breeding season the ‘Apapane will travel together in small flocks. When the ‘Apapane comes in contact with other species of honeycreepers, it is the subordinate. Because of the aggressive behavior of the ‘I’iwi and crested honeycreeper, the ‘Apapane is pushed to forage and nest on less desirable patches of habitat. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

Home Range

The home range depends on the availability of food for the ‘Apapane. The bird will generally stay in the same area when food is available and when nesting, but when the food amount is decreased the bird will travel to a more bountiful area. The bird prefers the higher elevations, above 1,000ft. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997; Ralph and Fancy, 1995)

Communication and Perception

The ‘Apapane has an array of calls and songs including squeaks, whistles, rasping notes, clicking sounds, and melodic trills. Though the birds generally live in a small area on an island, the calls can vary from area to area. The calls can be heard from both the male and the female throughout the year, but they will sing more consistently during the breeding season with February being the peak singing rate. The birds will sing less when the ‘ohi’a flowering is less available from July to October because they are often traveling more searching for food. The birds will call when flying in a flock, such as a contact call, but they generally do not sing when in flight. Like most birds, the ‘Apapane will start singing at dawn and will continue in the late afternoon. The highest activity for singing is in the early morning and late afternoon and is lowest during the hottest part of the afternoon. The birds will also produce a whirring sound that comes from their primaries during flight. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

Food Habits

The ‘Apapane is a nectivorous bird, but will occasionally consume insects and spiders. The birds will take nectar from a variety of trees depending on the island they inhabit. The primary food source for the ‘Apapane is the o’hi’a (Metrosidoeros polymorpha). They will also take nectar from Koa, naio, mamane, kolea, alani, kanawao, koki’o ke’oke’o, and ‘olapa. They have also been observed feeding on flowers of coconut palms and introduced umbrella trees. The birds will eat butterflies, moths, hoppers, lacewings, spiders, bees, wasps, ants, bark lice, flies, beetles, thrips, true bugs, and mites. The ‘Apapane forages throughout the day, but is most active during the first and last two hours of the day. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar


Flight gives the adult ‘Apapane a huge advantage with escaping predation, but the same cannot be said for their young. The eggs and nestlings are the most at risk of predation. The two main predators of the young ‘Apapane are the introduced black rat (Rattus rattus) and feral cat (Felis catus). Though flight does help the ‘Apapane escape, there are other predators that are able to fly. The Hawaiian Hawk and Pueo are able to prey on adult and young ‘Apapane. Other predators, all introduced, include the Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans), Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), and Barn Owl (Tyto alba). (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

Ecosystem Roles

Since the ‘Apapane is primarily a nectivore, they act as pollinators. This is a very important role on the Hawaiian island because it produces high levels of fruit set and outbreeding for the plants the ‘Apapane uses as food sources. The ‘Apapane is able to keep the native species alive with the encroachment of invasive species of plants. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The ‘Apapane is one of the species that helps generate ecotourism for the Hawaiian Islands. Ecotourism stimulates the economy, increases job creation, and also helps to educate the world and supports conservation. Every year, there are over 7.5 million visitors to the islands that come for ecotourism. The visitors contribute over $9 billion in spending each year. Tourism is one of the biggest contributors for revenue in Hawaii. The pollination the 'Apapapane provides also increases the native tree species which attracts more ecotourism. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997; Mcgahey, 2012; Zhou, et al., 1996)

  • Positive Impacts
  • ecotourism
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The most beneficial aspect of the ‘Apapane effects on the economy are also one of the worst aspects for the humans and the status of the environment on all the islands. Tourism makes up about 35% of the Hawaii Gross State Product (GSP). Without tourism, the economy would lose a lot of revenue. Tourism has caused many problems for the natural attractions on the islands. Habitats are destroyed and pollution is created with the high volumes of people coming to the islands. When these attractions disappear, so will the tourists and the economy will suffer. (Zhou, et al., 1996)

Conservation Status

The status of the ‘Apapane is not considered a threatened or endangered, but is a species of least concern. The Laysan I subspecies became extinct with the introduction of rabbits that were brought to feed the guano miners. Though the birds are not considered threatened, they are facing detrimental problems. Their habitat is disappearing with climate change and habitat destruction by humans. The biggest threat to the conservation status for the bird is disease, especially avian malaria. (Fancy and Ralph, 1997)

Other Comments

In the Hawaiian language, there are only 13 letters (A,E,I,O,U, H,K,L,M,N,P, W, and ‘). ‘ in the Hawaiian language is called a gottal and acts as a stop or pause in the speech. ‘ In ‘Apapane acts as a pause in front of the word. The Hawaiian language developed from the language the Polynesian people spoke when first coming to the island. The language is spoken on many islands between Hawai'i and New Zealand. (Walch, 1967)

Currently, the biggest threat to the ‘Apapane is avian malaria (Plasmodium relictum). Avian malaria is a vector borne disease transmitted by mosquitoes. When a bird is infected with avian malaria, it becomes anemic. The disease came to the Hawaiian Islands with the introduction of mosquitoes in 1827 and the caged birds and domestic fowl that were brought over by the Europeans. The caged birds and domestic fowl acted as a host for the disease as well as an avian pox virus. The disease quickly spread to the native birds and started to dramatically affect their distribution and population densities. Some birds, such as the ‘Apapane have a low mortality rate for the disease compared to other species (>50% for hatchlings and >25% for adults), but the survivors then become a reservoir for the disease and it is nearly impossible to eradicate. Though the ‘Apapane are more likely to survive the disease, it still might negatively affect their fitness. The ‘Apapane are generally found above the mosquito zone and are not as likely to become infected. However, with the introduction of ungulates and climate change, their habitat might become invaded with mosquitoes. Wild boars on the Hawaiian Islands will uproot vegetation and create the perfect breeding habitat for mosquitoes. The cooler temperatures at higher elevations keep the mosquitoes out, but with climate change, the temperatures are rising and may allow the mosquitoes at higher elevations. Currently, the ungulates on the islands are trying to controlled with fences and hunting, but the mosquitoes will inevitably rise to higher elevations. Either the birds will adapt and become immune, go extinct, or survive with the help of human intervention. (Atkinson and Samuel, 2010; Yorinks and Atkinson, 2000)


Madison Hodge (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


Atkinson, C., M. Samuel. 2010. Avian malaria Plasmodium relictum in native Hawaiian forest birds: epizootiology and demographic impacts on `apapane <<Himatione sanguinea>>. J. Avian Biology, 41: 357-366.

Cox, L., M. Saucier, J. Cusick, H. Richins, B. McClure. 2009. Achieving Sustainable Tourism in Hawai'i Using a Sustainability Evaluation System. Resource Management, 17: 1-6.

Fancy, S., T. Pratt, G. Lindsey, C. Harada, A. Parent, J. Jacobi. 1993. Identifying Sex and Age of Apapane and Iiwi on Hawaii. Journal of Field Ornithology, 64(2): 262-269.

Fancy, S., C. Ralph. 1997. 'Apapane (Himatione sanguinea). In the Birds of North America, No. 296 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.): 1-16.

Mcgahey, S. 2012. The ethics, obligations, and stakeholders of ecotourism marketing. Intelektine Ekonomika, 6(2): 75-88.

Ralph, C., S. Fancy. 1995. Demography and Movements of Apapane and Iiwi in Hawaii. The Condor, 97: 729-742.

Reynolds, M., R. Camp, B. Nielson, J. Jacobi. 2003. Evidence of change in a low-elevation forest bird community of Hawai’i since 1979. Bird Conservation International, 13: 175–187.

Walch, D. 1967. The historical development of the Hawaiian alphabet. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 76(3): 353- 366.

Yorinks, N., C. Atkinson. 2000. Effects of Malaria on Activity Budgets of Experimentally Infected Juvenile Apapane (Himatione sanguinea). The Auk, 117(3): 731-738.

Zhou, D., J. Yanagida, U. Chakravorty, P. Leung. 1996. Estimating economic impacts from tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 24: 76-89.

van Riper III, C. 1973. The Nesting of the Apapane in Lava Caves on the Island of Hawaii. The Wilson Bulletin, 85(2): 238-240.