Birding O’ahu: The Introduced Songbirds

Wickersham's Conscience

Many of O’ahu’s native bird species are gone. The Polynesians and westerners brought in too many invaders: pigs, rats, mongoose, cattle, goats, chicken and, worst of all, avian malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Island ecologies are notoriously fragile. and the Hawai’ian Islands proved to be no different. Today, native bird species, especially O’ahu’s amazing songbirds, are mostly gone. Invasive species dominate the avifauna now.

The invasive species are mostly escaped cage birds. And they are certainly colorful enough. But they came loaded with the avian malaria Plasmodium protozoans. The invasives had evolved tolerance to the disease; the native Hawai’ian birds had not. When mosquitoes were introduced, they carried the disease from the non-native to the native birds, with tragic results. So look at these handsome introduced birds with a critical eye. In no particular order, here’s a sampling of the non-native, introduced songbirds:

Red Avadavat, O'ahu, Hawai'ian Islands Red Avadavat, O’ahu, Hawai’ian Islands

A difficult species to find…

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