Friday, February 10, 2017

Nani Manu - Beautiful Bird

Many joys of this Hawaii vacation have been brought by the gorgeous birds. The first place we stayed, in Kona on Big Island, stocked their bird feeder well. We started our day in the mornings and ended at dusk, watching the birds lit in and out, taking turns for the seed, and then we'd leaf through pages in the guidebook trying to identify their names.

Some we knew. The pretty little House Finch. A Northern red cardinal that came along every evening. Seeing these familiars was like coming across old friends in the jungle.

The rooster was actually the first bird we saw when we arrived, brash and strutting with its gorgeous plumage. They were everywhere, and made me laugh, even at their 5 a.m. early morning calls. Naming the roosters and chickens junglefowl or moa made them seem a bit more exotic than the invasive species they've become.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
photo credit
Also at the feeder in Kona: Japanese white eye, java sparrow, saffron finch, red whiskered bulbul, saffron finch, ring necked pheasant, and zebra dove.

Cattle egrets and mynas were on all the islands, but we first noticed them on Maui. Red crested cardinals were prominent on Maui and Ohau, where they are seen as becoming a threat to local species. We saw white rumped shama thrush enjoying botanical gardens.
shama thrush
photo credit

In Kaui we came across the national goose, Nene. At first they seem a bit plain compared to their colourful cousins, but the pattern of the feathers is striking.

A black-bellied whistling duck jumped out at us on a jungle road, it's odd beak making it easy to identify later. One source hilariously described it as a "boisterous duck."  

Tropicbird in Waimea Canyon
 photo credit
At the Kilauea Lighthouse, Frigates were flying and Masked Booby were hopping at the rocky shore.

We spotted tropicbirds soaring in Waimea Canyon.

Hawaian Honeycreepers
all descended from a single finch ancestor

In Kaui, I would occasionally see a blurr of red in the jungle or against the green of fruit trees. There are a few red forests birds here. It may have been an I'iwi (which are still common on this island although in rapid decline), or an 'Apapane (typically found in forests at higher elevations), but definitely not an akapi (now found only on Big Island, Volcanoes Park).

Unfortunately many of the birds once found in Hawaii are now extinct. Audubon notes "the arrival of Polynesians and then Europeans famously wiped out countless vulnerable island species, many of them before their existence was even recorded." Their feathers made them desirable for Polynesian royalty and later, for haberdashers. Now even more common varieties are becoming endangered and dwindling in number. Even the national goose, the Nene, is endangered. Species are threatened because habitats are dwindling, and some of the food sources such as taro crops are no longer grown. Of course,  pesticides are also a problem. Throughout the islands there were handwritten placards, NO SPRAYING! and NO GMO! However protests are not always heeded.

The other threat to many Hawaian birds are rats, which are not native to Hawaii and go after nesting females, eggs and young chicks. When we were in Kona we trapped a rat that had been eating fruit overnight. It must have been in paradise with all the birds at the feeder... Our host was apologetic but acknowledged rats are a problem across Hawaii. Since the rodents had no natural predators, mongoose were brought to the island to help combat the problem.Unfortunately, mongoose are diurnal, rats nocturnal, so it didn't help the rat situation. Also unfortunately, mongoose love eating little birds. Rats, mongoose and cats are among the greatest threats to birds here and elsewhere.

A number of societies in Hawaii work to protect endangered species, including the Hawaian Audubon Society and the Kauai Forest Birds Recovery Project.


Red junglefowl or moa
House finch
Northern cardinal
Japanese white eye
Java sparrow
Ring necked Pheasant
Red whispered bulbul
Saffron finch 
Zebra dove 
Cattle egret
Breadfruit and Shama thrush
Red crested cardinals
Common mynah
Tropicbird Waimea canyon
Hawaiian goose NuNu 
Black bellied whistling duck 
Masked booby

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