Fun Palila Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Jan 13, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Palila Facts For bird lovers of Hawaii

The palila (Loxioides bailleui) is perhaps one of the last surviving examples of finch-billed species of birds specialized for seed-eating. Critically endangered and belonging to the group of Hawaiian honeycreepers, the palila is endemic to the island of Hawaii and particularly restricted to the upper slopes of Mauna Kea.

These birds of Mauna Kea inhabit the mamane (Sophora chrysophylla) and mamane-naio forests and rely primarily on the soft seeds, flowers, and other materials produced and supported by the dry forest trees.

The finch-billed Hawaiian honeycreepers are known for their heavy, seed-eating bills, and the Palila is the only species of Hawaiian honeycreeper that is extant today.

With a heavy, dark bill, whitish belly, gray back, and a yellow head and chest, the palila bird's close relationship with the mamane forests of Mauna Kea not just influences its foraging and feeding habits but also its abundance, distribution, and nesting behaviors.

Find the palila bird interesting? Then read on to know more about this unique species of birds from the island of Hawaii.

For more relatable content, check out these green heron facts and palm cockatoo facts for kids.

Palila Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a palila?

The palila (Loxioides bailleui) is a species of finch-billed birds in the group of Hawaiian honeycreepers and belongs to the family Fringillidae.

What class of animal does a palila belong to?

The palila (Loxioides bailleui) belongs to the class Aves which includes all birds.

How many palilas are there in the world?

According to the latest assessment by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the total population size of the palila species is about 1,000-2,499, with a currently decreasing population trend.

Where does a palila live?

The palila population is endemic to the dry and open mamane (Sophora chrysophylla) and mamane-naio forests.

What is a palila's habitat?

The palila population is restricted to the upper slopes of Mauna Kea on the Hawaiian Islands. They can be found at elevations of 6,000-9,000 ft (1,830-2,740 m) above sea level and prefer forests with tall trees, abundant crown cover, and ample native shrubs in the understory.

Almost 96% of the current palila population and successful breeding populations occur on the western and the southwestern slope of Mauna Kea. Small populations on the eastern and northern slopes are on a decline.

Who do palilas live with?

The collective name for a group of honeycreepers is a hive. Hence, even though no explicit information is available regarding the lifestyle of the palila, it may be considered that this bird species from Hawaii do live in groups.

How long does a palila live?

No authentic information is available related to the lifespan range of the Hawaiian palila.

How do they reproduce?

From what is known about the nesting and mating behavior of the palila bird, the palila nesting season usually extends from February to September. These female birds construct a cup-shaped nest made of barks, lichens, roots, stems, and grasses.

Small leaves and lichens are used to layer the inside of the palila's nest. The nest is built high up on a mamane or naio tree, and building materials for the nest are provided by the tree itself.

A female palila bird's clutch comprises an average of two eggs but may range between 1-4. The incubation period lasts for about 17 days, and the female lays one egg per day.

Juvenile birds remain in the nest with the parents until they fledge at about 25 days. During this time, the juvenile palila's parents regurgitate food to feed it.

What is their conservation status?

As per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Hawaiian palila is a Critically Endangered bird species.

Palila Fun Facts

What do palilas look like?

The palila is a large-sized Hawaiian honeycreeper. Members of the species have a yellow head and chest, gray back, white belly, and olive-green wings and tail.

Overall, the plumage on the dorsal (upper) side of the body is medium gray, and that on the ventral (front) side is light gray to white.

The legs and feet are black with yellowish soles.

The bill is dark, heavy, and kind of hooked that helps the species crack open the tough and fibrous green pods of mamane to procure the seeds - the palila's primary source of food.

There is a slight difference between the appearance of the male and female members of these Hawaiian honeycreepers; while the males are vibrantly colored with distinct black lore (area between the eyes and the nostrils of the bird), females have dirty-yellow heads with less contrasting lore.

Fun Palila Facts For Kids

*We've been unable to source an image of a Palila and have used an image of a  Hawaiian honeycreeper instead. If you are able to provide us with a royalty-free image of a Palila, we would be happy to credit you. Please contact us at

How cute are they?

The puffed-up appearance and bright yellow plumage color give a cute and adorable look to the palila.

How do they communicate?

The typical palila song much like that of the nightingale is inconspicuous and consists of whistles, calls, trills, and warbles. The call is clearer and mostly a warbled collection of notes that sound like te-cleet or chee-clee.

These birds use their loud calls to communicate to each other the availability of food. The calls are mostly heard during the morning and evening, and according to native inhabitants, the calls are most frequent when the rain approaches during the day.

How big is a palila?

The palila grows to a size of about 7.5 in (19 cm) and is slightly bigger than the seaside sparrow.

How fast can a palila fly?

The exact flight speed of the palila is not available. However, members of this bird species from the Mauna Kea slopes of Hawaii are known to fly swiftly, usually at a height of less than 33 ft (10 m) over the forests' canopy. During flight, the wing-beats are steady, and the feet are drawn close to the body.

How much does a palila weigh?

The palila weighs about 1.3 oz (38 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

A male or female palila does not have any distinct name. Like all other birds, an adult male may be called a cock, and an adult female is called a hen.

What would you call a baby palila?

A baby palila may be called a hatchling, nestling, fledgling, or chick.

What do they eat?

The palila bird's diet primarily consists of the immature, green seeds of the mamane tree. In addition, the birds may also feed on the whole developing mamane pods, reproductive parts, developing leaves, leaf buds, and flower buds when seeds are not available in plenty.

The naio fruits are also eaten when food from the mamane tree is scarce. Additionally, these birds also feed on caterpillars and insects such as the mamane snout moth.

Are they poisonous?

The palila is not known to be a poisonous bird.

Would they make a good pet?

Since the palila is an endangered species according to the IUCN  Red List, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the State of Hawaii, keeping the Palila as a pet is not appropriate.

Did you know...

The seed coat and embryos of the mamane tree seeds contain toxic substances that would kill any small animal within minutes. However, the Palila almost solely depends on the pods and seeds of the tree for its diet and remains unaffected.

The palila was the first animal to have its name cited in a 9th district federal case titled Palila v. Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (1998).

As part of wildlife conservation efforts to prevent the palila from going to the verge of extinction, private lawsuits resulted in the federal district court ordering the State of Hawaii to remove mouflon sheep and goats from the critical habitat of the palila.

Why are palilas endangered?

The primary causes behind the decline of populations of the palila are forest fires, ungulate grazing, predation by rats and cats, and avian diseases.

The palila's habitat range does not expand into the lower elevations due to the incidence of avian malaria.

Moreover, a significant percentage of palila mortality results from the predation of the adult birds and nestlings by feral cats and egg predation by rats. The dry mamane forests are particularly prone to fires due to an abundance of understory vegetation and exotic grasses, leading to the palila's habitat loss.

Additionally, indiscriminate grazing by goats, feral sheep, mouflon, and other cattle on the slopes of Mauna Kea leads to a significant decline in tree productivity and affects the Critically Endangered palila's food availability.

How did the palila get its name?

The scientific description and the scientific name (Loxioides bailleui) of the palila were given by Oustalet in 1877.  

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these umbrellabird facts and  bee-eater facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable palila coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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