Elepaio are very versatile foragers, and search in every part of the forest for their preferred food: insects and spiders (3). They also use a wide variety of feeding methods to obtain their prey, including gleaning (plucking prey from the foliage or ground), and hawking (chasing after a target and catching it in its beak). They can use their feet to hold down large insects whilst they tear off the wings with their bill; and have even been observed holding large caterpillars in their bill and beating them against a branch (2). The elepaio’s fondness for insects has made them the guardian spirit of canoe makers, as their presence on a tree would indicate a large insect population and therefore its unsuitability for use as a canoe (3).
Elepaio are monogamous birds that remain together all year and often mate for life (2). Together, they maintain a territory that encompasses their nest site and food resources (6). The breeding season extends from January to June, during which clutches of one to three eggs are laid. The nest, constructed by both sexes, is a finely woven cup made of a wide variety of materials including grasses, bark strips, lichen and spider’s silk (2) (3), and placed in a fork or on a horizontal branch (7). Both the male and female incubate the eggs (for about 18 days) and feed the chicks (2). In a very good year the pair can raise two broods (6). The young remain on their parent’s territory for up to ten months, which gives them the opportunity to develop vital foraging skills (4). The elepaio is known to live for at least 12 years (2).