Many of you, who are birders, know that the Hawaiian Islands have been decimated of their endemic birds by the presence of humans and the rats, cats, pigs, cattle, sheep etc that were introduced, as well as agriculture. Additionally, mosquitoes were inadvertently put into the ecosystem in the mid 1800's by whaling ships. These mosquitoes spread avian pox and avian malaria to the highly susceptible native birds.
Hawaii has the highest percentage of extinction of their native birds of any place on earth. The remaining birds occur at elevations over 3500 feet on the remnant patches of native forest and are difficult to find. We used a guide service to bird for a day and found some of the endemics on the 'Big Island' as Hawaii is known by locally.
The bird most commonly associated with Hawaii is the Iiwi (Vestiaria coccinea). This red bird with black wings has a long curved bill. It is found in the rainforest consisting of koa and ohia trees. The ohia has red blossoms somewhat like a bottle brush tree. It is endangered, but still fairly common on all the main islands.
|Iiwi and ohia bloom|
|Apapane - juvenile|
Songbirds of several other families are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands as well. The Omao (Myadestes obscurus) is also known as the Hawaiian Thrush. It is obvious from its plump shape that it is a thrush. The Myadestes genus is the same as our Townsend's Solitaire. The Omao is gray brown backed and gray below. This bird posed beautifully for an extended period of time. There are 3 other Myadestes thrushes in the Hawaiian Islands, one on Molokai and 2 on Kauai. 2 of these three may already be extinct.
We saw some other birds that are native to Hawaii but not endemic. The first was the Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva). Locally it is known as the Kolea. This bird winters in Hawaii and breeds in western Alaska, making the 2500 mile trip over the north Pacific Ocean in about 60 hours. It was almost in full breeding plumage when we saw it in mid-April. It has a black breast and belly and speckled golden upperparts.
Happy birding and photography,
photos copyright 2012 David McDonald
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