Monday, August 3, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 1st week in August

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 1st week in August:

"Aia a pohā ka leo o ka 'a'o,
kāpule ke momona o ka 'ua'u i ka puapua.

When the 'a'o birds' voices are distinctly heard,
the 'ua'u birds are fat even to the very tails."

The raucous cry of the 'a'o, Newell's Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis newelli), is heard before dawn and after dusk in the late summer and early fall. It is nesting season for both the 'a'o and the 'ua'u, or dark-rumped petrel, seabirds that spend the day foraging at sea for squid and fish.

The clearest indication of their nesting is the cry of the 'a'o, which sounds like a cross between a crow's caw and the braying of a donkey. In the old days, this odd noise was a cue that the breeding colonies were full of plump 'ua'u chicks. Hawaiians hunted and ate both old and young 'ua'u, netting adults as they returned to nests at sunset.

Human and animal predation have endangered both species. 'A'o now breed only on inaccessible ridges of Kaua'i and Hawai'i, while 'ua'u nest mostly on Haleakalā. Thir extinction would crete serious problems for fishermen, who historically have depended on them to locate feeding schools of aku.

For more information about Newell's Shearwater, visit the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy 'a'o webpage.

Also visit the Newell's Shearwater page.

Taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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