Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Birds of (everywhere but) Hawaii

Hello! I'm happy to be back in town, and I'm extra happy to show you guys what I saw in Maui. Let's get started, shall we?

The thing about Hawaii is that a lot of new wildlife has been introduced to the islands since humans first started stopping by. Everything from trees, to rodents, to mosquitoes, to birds has been brought to the islands. Those new species are great at spreading out and taking advantage of all the resources of Hawaii. As a result, lots of the native life (except for waterbirds) has been pushed up and away from the shores. To find native honey-creepers on Maui, I had to go up to the top of Haleakala, the larger of the two volcanoes. And I didn't get pictures of the one native species I found. It is cool that I got to see birds from India and Africa that would be hard to find otherwise. But, I would much rather have seen a thriving population of native birds.

With that said, on to the birds!

This is a Black-crowned Night Heron. Its Hawaiian name is 'Auku'u. It is the one native bird that I got pictures of. It was right next to the hotel's koi pond, and I wonder if it would have actually speared a koi, or if it was just looking. These guys can be found on the mainland, too. I commonly see them around my hometown.

This is a Cattle Egret. It's called that because it has a special relationship with cattle; it eats the ticks and flies off of the cows. This egret is in breeding plumage, which is the coat of feathers that a bird wears in spring and summer to show off to the other gender. Cattle Egret breeding plumage consists of buffy feathers on the chest and head, and also a colorful bill and legs. These egrets originally lived in Asia, Africa, and Europe, but followed cattle to the Americas, and were then introduced to Hawaii in 1959 to control insect pests.

This bird is called the Common Myna. They were introduced from India in 1865 to control insects. They're all over the islands, and were the first species I saw after exiting the plane on Maui.

These colorful guys are Java Sparrows. They are originally from Indonesia. People tried to introduce them to Hawaii in 1867, then tried again and were successful in the late 1960s. These guys were all over our hotel one morning, then gone the rest of the week. That's birds for you - they do exactly what they want.

These are Nutmeg Mannikins, also called Ricebirds, also called Spotted Munias. They were introduced from Southeast Asia around 1865. It seems that a lot of introductions happened in the late 1860s. Perhaps there was one person at that time determined to introduce all of his/her favorite Asian birds to the Hawaiian islands? On another note, Nutmeg Mannikins can also be found in Southern California.

This is a Red-crested Cardinal. Its species was introduced around 1930 from South America. It is also called the Brazilian Cardinal. These guys are very social. If they see that you have food, they come right up to your feet, begging.

This is a Spotted Dove. Its other names are the Lace-necked, Mountain, and Chinese Dove. It's a pretty hefty bird, at about 12" long. Both of the genders have a spotted black and white collar. This species was introduced from Asia in the mid 1800s. (Sound familiar?)

This is a Zebra Dove. Zebra Doves are smaller than Spotteds, at 8" long. The last morning of our stay, we ate breakfast outside, and one flew right up and eyed us. I'm used to nosy House Sparrows doing that, but I didn't expect this dainty dove to be so forthcoming. They were introduced from Asia in 1922.

So, there you are! Some of the common birds of Hawaii. I hope you enjoyed meeting these birds. I got my information from the Hawaii Audubon Society's field guide, Hawaii's Birds.

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