Extinction obituary: why experts weep for the quiet and beautiful Hawaiian po’ouli – Rights History
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Extinction obituary: why experts weep for the quiet and beautiful Hawaiian po’ouli

Frantic conservation efforts couldn’t save the tiny, intricately colored songbird, whose obit is the first in our new series

The last po’ouli died in an unusual nest. Too weak to perch, the brownish-greyish songbird rested in a small towel twisted into a ring. He was the last of his species, the last in fact of an entire group of finches, and occurred nowhere on Earth outside its native Hawaii. For weeks, as scientists tried to find him a mate, he had been getting sicker. The only remaining po’ouli had just one eye. Alone in the towel, alone in all the world, he closed it.

He was born, like all po’ouli (pronounced po-oh-oo-lee), in Maui’s Hana rainforest, on the slopes of Mount Haleakalā – “house of the sun” – where it rains all the time. Also known as the blackfaced honeycreeper, his species was discovered in 1973. Then, researchers estimated the total population at 200 birds.

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