Laysan finch (Telespiza cantans)

Laysan finch
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Laysan finch fact file

Laysan finch description

GenusTelespiza (1)

This species is a large finch with a heavy, slightly hooked bill. Males are yellow in colour on the head and breast, with a yellow-grey back and rump, and dull white underparts. The wings and tail feathers are darker with golden-yellow edges (2). Females and juveniles differ slightly to males in appearance, being greyer above and on the hindneck. They also have fine streaks on the head, breast, and back, and greyer edges on the wing feathers. This finch's call sounds similar to that of a canary (3).

Length: 19 cm (2)

Laysan finch biology

This vulnerable finch feeds primarily on fruit and seeds, and is thought to have survived the defoliation of Laysan Island by feeding on bird eggs, seeds and carrion (3).


Laysan finch range

Endemic to Hawaii, this species is confined to Laysan Island, and a few tiny islands in the Hermes and Pearl Atoll where small numbers were introduced in 1967 (2).


Laysan finch habitat

Inhabits subtropical and tropical lowland and dry shrubland and grassland (3).


Laysan finch status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU D2) on the IUCN Redlist 2003 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Laysan finch threats

In the past, invasive alien plants have competed heavily with Hawaii’s natural plant life and have significantly reduced the Laysan finch’s nesting habitat (2). This has been brought under control now by the US Wildlife and Fisheries Service though these finches have not recovered (4). In the 20th century the Laysan finch suffered from predation and competition by introduced rats and rabbits, though once these alien species were exterminated, the finch populations recovered rapidly (2).

Other pressures on the island are taking their toll on this rare bird. Storms and droughts are extremely damaging and can destroy nests and sweep young and adult birds out to sea (3). Furthermore, global warming is a serious concern, as rising sea levels will have a profound impact on Layson Island, where the highest altitude is only 12 metres (3). Sea-levels are predicted to rise by 0.5-2.0 metres by 2100 and, as a consequence, the frequency and severity of hurricanes and droughts are expected to increase (2).


Laysan finch conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have eliminated pests such as rats and rabbits, and weeds and take every precaution to prevent alien species reaching Laysan Island. They have also restored native vegetation and, as a result, Laysan finch is recovering (4).


Find out more

FInd out more about the Laysan finch:
Birdlife International species fact sheet:



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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Redlist 2003 (January 2004)
  2. Birdlife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and Birdlife International. Barcelona and Cambridge.
  3. BirdLife International 2003 BirdLife's online World Bird Database: the site for bird conservation. Version 2.0. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (February 2004)
  4. US Fish and Wildlife Service (February 2004)

Image credit

Laysan finch  
Laysan finch

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