I’iwi in a Mountain Paradise

Iiwi in a Mountain Paradise.
Oil on Canvas
16 x 24 inches

I dialed the clock back about 100 years to show a scene of I’iwi birds at a beautiful high elevation waterfall. Sadly, i’iwi birds are no longer on Oahu in detectable numbers. They are considered possibly extinct from this island.  Thankfully,  they still live on Maui,  Kauai, and Hawaii island and I have been fortunate to see and hear them in these locations. They have an otherworldly metallic sound to their calls which I think is so cool! They are usually only in upper elevations due to mosquitoes which spread deadly avian diseases to them in the warmer low elevations. If you want to help Hawaiian birds fight the threat of mosquitoes,  there is fascinating work creating hope for the future and it needs support. Here is a short post about how to donate or volunteer to help conserve Hawaii’s gorgeous indigenous forest birds. For many more detailed resources, check out Birds of Hawaii Past and Present – the link tree for the BHPP Instagram account includes many links to organizations and articles for current in bird conservation topics and efforts.


I would like to highlight the photographers that made this piece possible as well as thanking a few more that inspire me in a more general sense by posting gorgeous high quality photos of indigenous Hawaiian wildlife and plants.

First and foremost, thanks to Nate Yuen of Hawaiian Forest for permission to use a photo of this waterfall. He takes incredible photos! You should take a look at his Instagram ( @808nateyuen) and/or Facebook account where his dreamy photos & highly educational posts about conservation and local nature are bound to brighten your day and help you fall in love with some rare and beautiful plants and animals.  

Thanks also to the many talented bird photographers whose work either directly or indirectly inspires my bird paintings. These little jewel-like birds are notoriously camera shy. They move quickly and are small so that despite being bright and striking in color, they are impossible to focus and capture with a regular call phone camera. It takes special camera equipment or an unusual situation (like being a bird biologist with a bird literally in your hand while you check its band and snap a cute portrait). For this painting, I utilized a bird pose similar to one in a photo by Alan Schmierer who has shared some of his work in creative commons licenses via Flickr and works on conservation as well. Thank you Alan! The other bird is a “Frankenbird” with some bits and aspects from multiple photos. I would like to thank Forest and Kim Starr who contribute many photos to creative commons, Jack Jeffrey whose photography I have used with kind permission in the past, and Bret Nainoa Mossman who runs an Instagram account and a Facebook Group entitled: “Birds of Hawaii Past and Present” and posts lovely photos and information about the birds of Hawaii. These photographers each have a massive body of work in both photography and conservation efforts that I admire very much! I appreciate the steady flow of gorgeous photos of birds that have helped me understand i’iwi anatomy (and many other birds as well). There are other photographers as well who have contributed richly to the growing library of i’iwi images online, but I encounter the excellent work of these photographers on a regular basis and appreciate it deeply.

I also would like to send out a general thank you to photographers who designate photos to creative commons or who do excellent work for the government and thus have their work enter public domain – the permission to explore and create from photographs where permission is given in advance makes it easier and faster to obtain inspirational photos and permission to use them to start the creative process. As an artist who wants to help bring attention to the conservation of birds, I feel a sense of shared purpose since many devoted photographers also work in conservation or share the same desire to preserve the forest.