Wetland Birds at Hanalei and Hulē‘ia NWRS
The ae`o has the second longest legs, after the flamingo, in relation to body size, of any other bird. The long beak give a hint as to how the stilt feeds, which is to probe into the mud for insects, crabs and other invertebrates. The ae`o nests on mudflats and on the banks of the kalo patches and ponds. Stilts are very protective of their nests, They will swoop at predators and sometimes feign an injury, calling out as if wounded and limping away from the eggs or young. This act cleverly lures potential predators away.
Hawaiian coot--‘alae ke‘oke‘o
The Hawaiian coot, known as `alae ke`oke`o, is another of the endangered waterbird species that lives at Hanalei and Hule`ia National Wildlife Refuges. This dark, slate gray bird with white bill and forehead shield spends more of its time in open water areas compared to its more secretive relative the Hawaiian Moorhen, or `alae `ula.
Common moorhen--‘alae ‘ula
The Common or Hawaiian Moorhen, also called `alae `ula in Hawaiian, is really not so common after all. This endangered waterbird is endemic to Hawaii and though considered to be common in the 1800s, it is now only found on Kauai and Oahu. It is quite secretive but can be seen at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge and other wetlands or along ditches on Kauai. In Hawaiian mythology, `alae`ula is attributed with bringing fire from the realm of the gods to the Hawaiian people. It was said to have been scorched on the forehead in the process of doing so, thus the bright red bill and forehead.
Hawaiian duck – koloa
The Hawaiian duck, also known as koloa or koloa maoli, is an endemic and endangered duck species in Hawaii. Koloa are generally seen in pairs and are fairly wary of people. Both the male and the female koloa have a mottled brown coloration that resembles that of a female mallard which a species of duck introduced to Hawaii and gone feral. Studies at the Hanalei refuge showed that some of the koloa found on the refuge made a daily flight between Hanalei and as high up as the Alaka`i swamp. Conservationists are concerned about koloa interbreeding with the introduced mallards and compromising the genetic integrity of this native species. Like all the other endemic waterbirds in Hawaii, loss of wetland habitat and introduced predators have been the significant cause of population decline and subsequent listing as an endangered species.
Black-crowned night heron-`auku`u
This large (2 feet tall) dark and light gray waterbird is indigenous to Hawaii and is found on all the main Hawaiian Islands. The `auku`u is a stealthy hunter feeding on fish, mice, crustaceans, insects and the chicks of other waterbirds as well. Though most commonly seen in freshwater habitats, it can also be seen hunting in tide pools and exposed reefs during low tides.