birding-aus Hawaiian Honeyeaters

To: "Birding-aus" <>, "Ian Montgomery" <>
Subject: birding-aus Hawaiian Honeyeaters
From: "Michael Todd" <>
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 22:24:03 +1000

Re honeyeater distribution

Yes, Hawaii did have some spectacular honeyeaters. I was fortunate enough to
do some work over there on forest birds last year so I thought I might
mention some sad details about the Hawaiian honeyeaters. When europeans
settled Hawaii there were a number of Hawaiian honeyeaters, the O'o
(pronounced Oh-oh- rather appropriate in the long run) and the Mamo
(pronounced Mum-oh). Off the top of my head there were four species of O'o-
the Hawaii O'o, Bishop's O'o (on Maui), Oahu O'o and the Kauiai O'o. All are
now almost certainly extinct. The Kauiai O'o was the last to have gone
extinct with I think a lone bird being known of in the early 1980's. Along
with the Mamos they were predominantly glossy black birds with tufts of
white and yellow plumage. They suffered from all sorts of pressures starting
with large scale collection by natives for their plumage which were put into
coats for royalty. I didn't get to see it but I understand that there is a
coat that belonged to King Kamehameha (the last Hawaiian King) in a museum
in Honolulu that is made up of the feathers of about 3,000 Hawaii O'o. It
seems as though when this sort of pressure was added to by clearing of
forest and introduced predators and diseases (avian pox and malaria)carried
by introduced mosquitos that the birds just couldn't cope. Disease is
probably the biggest factor in most of the extinctions though.

Most of the other native birds in Hawaii are honeycreepers (most of which
have also gone extinct!). The other day someone mentioned the Poouli
(pronounced Po-oh-ooli) which was only discovered in the 1970's. It seems
likely to be the next one to topple over the edge. A recent extensive survey
on Mauai by numerous experienced Hawaiian ornithologists failed to find any
new populations of Poouli which was just about the only chance that they had
to bring it back from the brink. 3 birds are left (I think 2 males and a
female) of which the female was separated from the males. Last I heard,
debate concerned whether to catch up the remaining birds or to try to
relocate one of the males or encourage them to move with feeders.

There is a lot of work being done on Hawaiian birds though so its not as
though they have been abandoned. Unfortunately it seems as though many of
them may be on borrowed time. I encourage people to go and see some of these
birds before its too late, particularly the Akiapolaau (Ukki-u-polar-ow), my
favourite bird, as what is left represents the most diverse example of bird
evolution in the world, greater even than Darwin's finches in the Galapagos.
Being over there made me realise how lucky we are in Australia to have so
many of our birds still extant. Lets hope it stays that way.

Very sad,


Michael Todd,
Finch Researcher,
Dept.of Environment and Heritage,
Pormpuraaw, Qld, Australia, 4871

-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Montgomery <>
To: David Rosalky <>
Cc:  <>
Date: Sunday, 28 March 1999 9:16
Subject: birding-aus NZ "honeyeater" and Fantail

>Yes, it is included in the Meliphagidae.  So are the Tui and the
>Stitchbird.  Meliphagids mainly occur in Australia and New Guinea, but
>there are representatives in neighbouring countries (Indonesia) and the
>Pacific, as far as Hawaii.  The South African genus Promerops (Sugarbirds)
>used to be included rather doubtfully in the Meliphagidae, but Sibley and
>Monroe now put it in the Nectarinidae (Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers and

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