Discover 6 Extinct Animals That Lived in Hawaii

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Updated: May 17, 2023
© National Archives at College Park - Still Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License / Original
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Hawaii is the only U.S. state located outside the continent, in the Pacific Ocean. It is also the only state located in the tropics. It consists of 137 volcanic islands and approximately 750 miles of coastline. Most animal species in the region have arrived by ocean currents and wings, making the state abundant in birds. In terms of endangered and extinct fauna, Hawaii is at the top of the list, as it has lost many endemic species. Nowadays, numerous species have been proposed to be declared extinct, as they haven’t been spotted for decades. 

The region isn’t very rich in fossils either. The discoveries primarily include corals and mollusks, so paleontological research is not a popular field in Hawaii. However, archeologists discovered bird fossils that helped outline the region’s ecological history. Other discovered fossils belonged to Synemporion keana, the only known mammal species that lived in the area and is now extinct.

Check out this list of 6 animal species that used to live in Hawaii!

1. Poʻouli

poʻouli
The Poʻouli is also called the black-faced honeycreeper.

©U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Photographer Paul E. Baker) / public domain – License

Poʻouli
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyFringillidae
SubfamilyCarduelinae
GenusMelamprosops
SpeciesMelamprosops phaeosoma
Extinct since2019

The Poʻouli is also called the black-faced honeycreeper. It was endemic to Maui, one of the islands in Hawaii. The bird inhabited the eastern side of Maui. It had a black-brown-gray color pattern. The black “mask” covering their heads made them easily distinguishable. It fed on insects, snails, and spiders

The first poʻouli bird was discovered in 1973. However, the number of birds rapidly declined, and by 1997, there were only three left. Mosquito-borne diseases, habitat loss, and predation by rats and cats contributed to the significant drop. Moreover, since native tree snails were an important food source for poʻouli, their disappearance from the region impacted the poʻouli population. 

There were two unsuccessful attempts to catch the three birds for breeding in captivity – in 2002 and 2004. One of the birds died in 2004. Eventually, the poʻouli species was declared extinct in 2019. 

2. Kauaʻi ʻakialoa

Kauaʻi ʻakialoa
Kauaʻi ʻakialoa usually lived in forests at high elevations.

©Hiart / CC0 1.0 – License

Kauaʻi ʻakialoa
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyFringillidae
SubfamilyCarduelinae
GenusAkialoa
SpeciesAkialoa stejnegeri
Extinct since2021

The kauaʻi ʻakialoa was a Hawaiian honeycreeper endemic to Kauai. The bird measured approximately 7.5 inches long. The males were of yellow-ish colors, while the females had green-ish shades. The kauaʻi ʻakialoa birds fed on insects

Kauaʻi ʻakialoa usually lived in forests at high elevations. Historically, these birds preferred living in moist montane forests or tropical lowlands.

Since its discovery, the kauaʻi ʻakialoa has been a rare species, but habitat loss and diseases have led to further declines. For example, many birds were killed by mosquitoes carrying malaria. The last kauaʻi ʻakialoa was spotted in 1967. In that same year, it became an endangered species. However, nothing could be done to save it, and, in 2021, the kauaʻi ʻakialoa was proposed to be declared extinct. 

3. Molokai creeper

Molokai creeper
The last Molokai creeper was seen in 1963 in the Kamakou region.

©John Gerrard Keulemans / public domain – License

Molokai creeper
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyFringillidae
SubfamilyCarduelinae
GenusParoreomyza
SpeciesParoreomyza flammea
Last seen in1963

The Molokai creeper is also called kākāwahie. It’s a type of Hawaiian honeycreeper. It’s a 5.5-inch-long bird, and its feather colors make it look like a flame. These birds were first spotted in the 19th century and used to inhabit lower-elevation forests. Their diet consisted of beetle and lepidoptera larvae and flower nectar. 

In the 1930s, the Molokai creeper population started to decline because of habitat destruction, diseases, such as bird pox and malaria, introduced by non-native birds and insects, and human action. This bird species hasn’t been officially extinct, but the last Molokai creeper was seen in 1963 in the Kamakou region. However, even though no birds have been seen, scientists believe that the Molokai creeper lived for approximately ten years. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife has already added it to a list of species proposed to be labeled extinct. 

4. Great Maui Crake

Great Maui Crake
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGruiformes
FamilyRallidae
GenusPorzana
SpeciesProzana severnsi
Extinct sinceEarly 12th century

The great Maui crake was a Maui bird species that could not fly because its wings were too small. It’s believed to have had a gray-brown color pattern. The bird could grow as tall as 1 ft 3 in, with its neck measuring 8.5 inches long. It fed on leaves, flowers, and fruits. 

There is no official data regarding the first Great Maui Crake appearance, but they were already around in early settlements. Their number decreased because of hunting and predation, eventually becoming extinct in the 12th century. 

5. Hawaiian crow

Hawaiian crow
The Hawaiian crow has a very long lifespan – 18 years in the wild and 28 years in captivity.

©U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / public domain – License

Hawaiian crow
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyCorvidae
GenusCorvus
SpeciesCorvus hawaiiensis
Extinct in the wild since 2002

The Hawaiian crow is a 20-inch-long crow with rounded wings and a thick bill. This bird has a very long lifespan – 18 years in the wild and 28 years in captivity. The crows lived only in western and southeastern Hawaii and fed on various invertebrates, such as snails and arachnids, as well as on fruits. 

The paleontological research of Hawaiian fossils shows that the Hawaiian crow was abundant in the region, but its number has gradually decreased over the years. The main reason behind this is human action. Besides the fact that people hunted these crows, they also opted for deforestation. This, in turn, caused the appearance of invasive plants and mosquitos that further damaged the Hawaiian crow population. The disappearance of this bird species has led to a decrease in plant species, as many relied on the Hawaiian crow for seed dispersal and germination.

There is still hope to revive this crow species, as the Hawaiian crow was declared extinct only in the wild. The last two birds living in the wild disappeared in 2002, but there are still 115 birds living in captivity. Efforts have already been made to raise the number of these crows, but there’s still a long way to go. 

6. Synemporion keana

Synemporion keana
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderChiroptera
FamilyVespertilionidae
GenusSynemporion
SpeciesSynemporion keana
Living period320,000-2,100 years ago

Synemporion keana was a species of bat that appeared in Hawaii around 320,000–400,000 years ago. Its name means “fellow traveler or companion,” coming from the Ancient Greek word synmporos. These bats lived on Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and Maui. 

Around 110 fossils have been found in the region. The first was discovered in 1981. Scientists established that one of the fossils was approximately 2700 years old, indicating how long these bats inhabited the islands. However, it is believed that they lived even longer, going extinct around 2,100 years ago. 

Summary of 6 Extinct Animals That Lived in Hawaii

Extinct AnimalTypeWhen it Was Declared Extinct
1. PoʻouliBird2019
2. Kauaʻi ʻakialoaBird2021
3. Molokai CreeperBird1963
4. Great Maui CrakeBirdEarly 12th Century
5. Hawaiian CrowBird2002
6. Synemporion KeanaBat320,000-2,100 years ago

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© National Archives at College Park - Still Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License / Original

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I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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