Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Native Birds in Your Backyard

Native Hawaiian Rainforest Birds in Backyard, Volcano, HI
'Apapane, 'Amakihi, 'Oma'o

How many native Hawaiian birds are in your backyard? If you live in a coastal area and have a big, grassy lawn, you might get an occasional visit from kolea, or golden plover. Kolea winter in Hawaii August through April, so now they are earnestly raiding urban lawns - don't worry, they aren't doing any damage, just fattening up on insects, getting reading for their return migration to Alaska. Kolea are highly territorial and usually return each year to the same place, so if you have one in your yard chances are you'll see it again next year. If you don't have a dog or cat, that is.

If you like to put out fancy bird feeders and fill them with commercial seed imported from North America, of course you will attract North American birds, plus other former pets/escapees that have done very well in Hawaii's balmy climate. In the most densely populated areas of Hawaii, it's now rare to get a glimpse of native birds in your backyard. Natural habitats have been so altered by humans that native Hawaiian birds, which are often highly specialized, can't survive.

But if you are lucky enough to live in an area where there are native birds, instead of putting out a bird feeder consider planting native bird food plants. 'Amakihi, for example, are generalists that feed on a variety of native plants, and there have been reports of 'amakihi populations reestablishing in the lower elevations of the Puna district on the Big Island. Many native birds like sipping from 'ohi'a lehua blossoms, and 'ohi'a is easy to grow in wet, humid locations.

Since I live in a rainforest, I rarely see marine birds in my area, though this past year I think I heard a shearwater's odd groaning call above my house. That bird uses moonlight to navigate at night and, sadly, most likely was it disoriented by the bright lights in the upland areas now inhabited by humans.

How many bird songs can you identify in your backyard? And how many are native?


Anonymous said...

Great little true story on the birds! Thanks, Royce Wilson

Janice said...

Mahalo, Royce!

Sebastian Marquez said...

Hi Janice,

I just came across your blog while looking for gardening tips. Being a volunteer at the Honolulu Zoo, I'm glad that there are still areas that native birds and humans are sharing. And by the sound of your blog, sharing well.

I used to live in chinatown. While it was a majority introduced pigeons, sparrows & mynas; there is still a population of manu-o-ku which seems to be thriving.

They can be...daring when it comes to what they choose for nest sites. I remember a couple years back, a pair of the terns tried to nest on one lone tree on Hotel St, surrounded by bars and night clubs!

Janice said...

Sebastian, I did see manu-o-ku on Oahu recently. A pair at the city park next to the Mo'ili'ili Star Market and, of all places, a pair in a tree on the median strip on Kalakaua between King and Kapiolani! I was quite surprised to see them. Thanks for reminding me of that!