In July 2009 Eric submitted a proposal to the American Ornithologists’ Union checklist committee recommending that the Elepaio be split into 3 species, one each on Kauai, Oahu, and Hawaii. This recommendation was based on research that showed Elepaio on each island differ morphologically, genetically, and behaviorally. Copies of these research papers can be downloaded from the publications page of the Pacific Rim Conservation website (pdf #s 65 and 52).
The AOU has voted to accept this proposal, and the split will become official in July 2010. The official checklist can be viewed and searched on the AOU website: http://www.aou.org/checklist/north/ This change will give birders two more species to tick on their lists, but much more importantly, it will more accurately represent the evolutionary ecology of Elepaio, facilitate individual assessment of their conservation status on each island, and hopefully help create more support for conservation of the many endemic species in Hawaii. The Oahu Elepaio is already listed as an endangered subspecies under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, but this change in taxonomy should increase its recovery priority. Under the IUCN system, the Oahu Elepaio will likely qualify as critically endangered due to its small population size and rapid decline.