Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bulletin #156 - Hawaii Introduced Songbirds

I have the pleasure of showing off my star pupil, my new wife Lisa. She has been taking photos that are as equal quality and sometimes better than mine!

In the last bulletin, I described how the endemic species of Hawaii were decimated and some were driven to extinction by the arrival of humans and their baggage of domestic animals, agriculture etc.

The islands were repopulated with many non-native bird species from around the world. Several of our familiar songbirds were introduced including the Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Western Meadowlark, and of course the ubiquitous House Sparrow of European origin. Fortunately at least they did not import the Starling! I did not bother to photograph these species. I concentrated on the birds from elsewhere, many of which are very beautiful.

The most stunning of the birds was the Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola). This bird was introduced in the 1960s and is native to South America (where I have also seen it). The male is bright yellow with reddish orange on the face. These birds were all around our hotel and a real delight.

Saffron Finch - male
Photo by Lisa Kelly-McDonald
The female lacks the red face.
Saffron Finch - female
The juvenile is grayish with some yellow.

Saffron Finch - juvenile
Another somehwat similar bird was the Yellow-fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus). As its Latin name implies, it is a native of Africa. It too was introduced in the 1960s. It is greenish above with yellow below. The face is also yellow with brown stripes.
Yellow-fronted Canary
The most colorful bird was the Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea). Unlike the rest of the birds here, it is a forest bird and exceedingly difficult to see. It was introduced from China in 1918. However, we were lucky to hear a bird screeching as we hiked down to one of the famous black sand beaches. We saw the bird on an open branch about 6 feet away. I guess we must have been close to its nest. I only had my scenery 24-105mm lens with me, but the bird was close enough to get a decent photo.
Red-billed Leiothrix
The Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis) is a native bird of India. It was introduced in 1865. This bird aslo can be found in the USA in the Miami area. It is brown with yellow bare skin on the face, yellow legs, and bill. It is very noisy! The sexes are similar.
Common Mynah
The Yellow-billed Cardinal (Paroaria capitata) is another South American bird. It was introduced in 1973, and is only on the Big Island. It seems to be misnamed as the bill seems to be pinkish rather than yellow, at least in the adult. The sexes are similar. It has a red head without a crest, dark gray back and white underparts. Altogether, it is a beautiful songbird.
Yellow-billed Cardinal - adult
The juvenile has more a a yellow bill, and ochre coloration of the head rather than red.
Yellow-billed Cardinal - juvenile

The Nutmeg Mannikin (Lonchura punctulata) is the same gunus as the above bird. It was introduced in 1865 from Southeast Asia. It has a brown back, and speckled brown breast with the dark bill. This bird also occurs in the USA as escaped caged birds, although I have not seen it here. The sexes are similar.
Nutmeg Mannikin
The Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora) is a handsome 6" gray bird with white face, black head, and 2 tone thick red bill. As it name implies, it was introduced from Indonesia in 1867. It was reintroduced in the 1960s and occurs on Oahu and now on the Big Island as well. The sexes are similar.
Java Sparrow - adult
The juvenile is dull gray and lacks the black head.
Java Sparrow - juvenile
The last bird was common, but very frustrating to photograph. It was hyperactive, (like a cross between a warbler and a hummingbird) flitting through the branches. This is the Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus). This is an yellow or olive 4.5" bird with a prominent white eye ring. The male is more yellow on the throat and the female is olive. It was introduced in 1929 on Oahu and 1937 on the Big Island.

Japanese White-eye - male

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2012 David McDonald

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