Tag Archives: Finches

Chloridops kona Wilson

Kona Grosbeak (Chloridops kona)

The Kona Grosbeak was discovered at the end of the 19th century, at that time it was restricted to a tiny, only about 10 km² large area in the north of the Kona district on the island of Hawai’i.

This rather plump and inconspicuous looking bird fed almost exclusively on the dried seeds of the Naio tree (Myoporum sandwicense (A. Gray)), and could often be located by the cracking sound of its feeding.

R. C. L. Perkins was one of the few people, that saw the bird in life, he wrote about it in the year 1893.:

The Palila (Chloridops kona), though an interesting bird on account of its peculiar structure, is a singularly uninteresting one in its habits. It is a dull, sluggish, solitary bird, and very silent – its whole existence may be summed up in the words “to eat.” Its food consists of the seeds of the fruit of the aaka (bastard sandal-tree [Myoporum sandwicense (A. Gray)], and probably in other seasons of those of the sandal-wood tree), and as these are very minute, its whole time seems to be taken up in cracking the extremely hard shells of this fruit, for which its extraordinarily powerful beak and heavy head have been developed. I think there must have been hundreds of the small white kernels in those that I examined. The incessant cracking of the fruits when one of these birds is feeding, the noise of which can be heard for a considerable distance, renders the bird much easier to see than it otherwise would be. … I never heard it sing (once mistook the young Rhodacanthis’ song for that of Chloridops), but my boy informed me that he had heard it once, and its song was not like that of Rhodacanthis. Only once did I see it display any real activity, when a male and female were in active pursuit of one another amongst the sandal-trees. Its beak is nearly always very dirty, with a brown substance adherent to it, which must be derived from the sandal-tree.

Note, that the name Palila is actually the Hawaiian vernacular name for another drepanidine bird species – Loxioides bailleui (Oustalet).

The last living Kona Grosbeaks were seen in the year 1894.

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References:

[1] R. C. L. Perkins: Notes on Collecting in Kona. The Ibis 6(5): 101-111. 1893
[2] D. Luther: Die ausgestorbenen Vögel der Welt. Westarp Wissenschaften 1986
[3] H. D. Pratt; P. L. Bruner; D. G. Berrett: A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press 1987
[4] E. Fuller: Extinct Birds. Penguin Books (England) 1987
[5] H. D. Pratt: The Hawaiian Honeycreepers: Drepanidinae. Oxford Univ. Pr. 2005

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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

Drepanis coccinea (Forster)

Iiwi (Drepanis coccinea)

The Iiwi belongs to the group of the so called drepanidine finches, a radiation of the Finch family, which is distributed exclusively on the Hawaiian archipelago and which has produced at least seventy species, of which, however, most have unfortunately been extirpated nowadays.

Even the Iiwi, which in the 20th century was still one of the most common of the surviving drepanidine finches, and which occured on all of the Hawaiian main islands, is now rare and has actually already disappeared from some of the islands (Lana’i, Ni’ihau).

The bird, which particularly feeds on nectar, is about 15 cm long and therefore belongs to the middle sized species within the group, the sexes are identical in color.

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drepanis-coccinea-fks

immature bird

drepanis-coccinea-fks1

adult bird

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Photos: Kim Starr & Forest Starr; by courtesy of Kim Starr & Forest Starr

http://www.starrenvironmental.com

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