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The ʻAkepa (Loxops coccineus) is one of the smallest Hawaiian forest birds, at four inches/10 grams. Found only in high elevation old growth rainforest, these nonmigratory passerines have rounded heads, black eyes, and black wings and tail. Adult males sport one of the most brilliant orange colors found in any bird, a plumage which takes four years to develop. Females are greenish gray on back, lighter grey on front, with varying amounts of yellow and sometimes pale orange on the breast and belly. Juveniles appear similar to females, though are generally duller in color.
All 'Akepa have an unusual cross-bill. When closed, the upper bill tip slightly overlaps the lower bill tip to one side (this cannot be seen in the field). When opening the bill, as in prying open leaf buds to extract small caterpillars, the bills swing dramatically sideways, and this is easily seen in the hand. Some birds cross one way, and some the other, apparently randomly. The ʻAkepa cross-bill operates similarly to that in the North American crossbills (genus
Loxia), but is much less obvious when the bill is closed.
ʻAkepa are usually found from 1,500 to 2,200 meters above sea level.