Disease spreading among Hawaii Island native forest bird

HILO — Scientists say an emerging infectious disease is afflicting a forest bird native to the Big Island.

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HILO — Scientists say an emerging infectious disease is afflicting a forest bird native to the Big Island.

The University of Hawaii said Monday the disease sometimes called scaly leg was first detected in the Hawaii amakihi in 2007.

The disease is caused by a skin-burrowing mite. It may severely deform the infected bird’s feet and lead to population declines.

An island-wide survey of key native forest bird habitats revealed the infestation is limited to the Hawaii amakihi. But within the species, it’s spreading from low elevation forests in leeward Mauna Loa to higher leeward elevations. It’s also spreading west to low elevation forests in Puna.

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The Hawaii Cooperative Studies Unit at the university’s Hilo campus published a report on the disease.

The Hawaii amakihi is a honeycreeper with green and yellow feathers.

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