Paroreomyza montana (Wilson)

Alauwahio (Paroreomyza montana)

The prehistoric ancestor of the Alauwahio inhabited the island of Maui Nui, a giant landmass, that began to disintegrate about 800000 years ago, to form the islands we know today as Kaho’olawe, Lana’i, Maui and Moloka’i.

These islands harbored, and still harbor, many species that are not shared with the other Hawaiian islands.

It seems that every single island of the previously connected landmass of Maui Nui once had its own Alauwahio subspecies, two of which are known historically, with only one of them, the Maui Alauwahio (Paroreomyza montana ssp. newtoni (Rothschild)), surviving until today, while the nominate subspecies from the island of Lana’i is extinct. A third subspecies seems to have lived on the island of Molokai, as subfossil bones indicate.

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The two forms from Lana’i and Maui differ from each other only slightly in their coloration, with the Lanai birds being somewhat more yellowish on the upper side.

Scott Wilson, the discoverer of the Lana’i subspecies, wrote about it in the year 1890.:

“However, at a point called Lanaihale, on our return journey, I caught sight of a bright yellow bird in an ohia bush, a few yards down the side of the gulch: I put my gun instantly on my shoulder and fired, down came the bird … Its breast was of a brilliant yellow, far brighter in tint than the plumage of any other species I have as yet obtained; its legs and bill were a light pink; in dissecting it I found some small larvae.”

When searching for insects, the Lanai Alauwahio hopped quickly around branches and twigs of the trees, examined the layer of epiphytic lichen and mosses, inserted its beak into crevices in the bark, and uncovered its prey by chopping pieces of bark.

The sighting of a pair in the year 1937 is considered the last verified record for this subspecies.

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References:

[1] S. Wilson: On some Birds of the Sandwich Islands. The Ibis 6(2): 170-196. 1890
[2] D. Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986
[3] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005

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paroreomyza-m-montana-ecr

nominate race

Depiction from: ‘W. Rothschild: The Avifauna of Laysan and the neighbouring islands with a complete history to date of the birds of the Hawaiian possession. 1893-1900’

by courtesy of Erin Clements Rushing

http://www.sil.si.edu

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