Kona Forests

Country/territory: USA

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A4i (2009)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 65,266 ha

Audubon / American Bird Conservancy
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2012 not assessed not assessed medium
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2011 baseline)
The Kona Forests Important Bird Area is located on the island of Hawai`i and encompasses the western flank of Mauna Loa Volcano and lands surrounding Hualalai Volcano. Both these volcanoes are active, though Hualalai has not erupted since 1801. The IBA includes about 65,265 hectares from near sea level to just over 7,000 feet (2,130 meters) elevation. Land parcels within the IBA include the Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Pu`u Wa`a Wa`a State Forest Bird Sanctuary, Manuka and Kipahoehoe State Natural Area Reserves, Pu`u Wa`a Wa`a, South Kona, Honualoa, and Waiaha Springs State Forest Reserves, unencumbered State lands, The Nature Conservancy's Kona Hema Preserve, and numerous private parcels. The terrain consists of gentle to moderate slopes, punctuated in some areas by volcanic craters and vents. Areas of older lava are densely vegetated, but many recent, barren lava flows cross the area. The Kona area is in the rain shadow of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, and the dominant habitat types are dry and mesic forest. Annual rainfall ranges from one to two meters, peaking around 600-900 meters (2,000-3,000 feet) elevation. Habitat loss and disturbance has been extensive in Kona, from cattle ranching, timber harvesting, and urban and agricultural development. There are fairly large contiguous tracts of forest remaining in south Kona and a moderately-sized section on the northern slope of Hualalai, but elsewhere the native forest habitat has been severely fragmented. The forest is patchy and has little understory in some parts of the IBA, but the potential for forest restoration is good. Native plants dominate some areas, but alien plants are widespread, particularly at lower elevations. The upper (eastern) boundary of the IBA follows the 7,000-foot (2,130-meter) contour in some areas, because land above this is mostly sparse shrubland and barren lava, but in many areas the upper boundary is lower because of forest clearing.

Key biodiversity
The Kona Forests Important Bird Area supports relatively large and important populations of several endemic Hawaiian birds. The endangered `Io or Hawaiian Hawk (Buteo solitarius) is found only on the island of Hawai`i and is particularly numerous in the Kona region. The `I`iwi (Vestiaria coccinea) and `Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis), both species of global conservation concern, are widespread but may be declining. The `Apapane (Himatione sanguinea) and Common (Hawai`i) `Amakihi (Hemignathus virens) are the most abundant native birds in the IBA and also occur on other islands, but still have globally restricted ranges, and the Kona area supports large and important populations. Two forest birds that are endemic to Hawai`i Island and listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the Hawai`i Creeper (Oreomystis mana) and Hawai`i `Akepa (Loxops coccineus) occur in the Kona area in small numbers, primarily on the Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent lands. The population of Nene or Hawaiian Goose (Branta sandvicensis) on the island has been augmented with captive bred birds, and about 97 Nene now use the Kona area, mostly in north Kona on the slopes of Hualalai. Small numbers of the Hawaiian Petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis), another endangered species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, are known to transit the area while commuting to nesting areas higher on Mauna Loa, and it is possible that a few petrels nest along the top margin of the IBA. The last wild `Alala or Hawaiian Crow were observed in June 2002 on the Kona Forest National Wildlife Refuge and adjacent private lands. A captive breeding program has been established for the `Alala, and some of the best potential reintroduction sites are in the Kona Forest IBA.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Kona Forests. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/kona-forests-iba-usa on 25/09/2023.