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  • Writer's pictureCoach Polhemus

Final Native Bird of the Month - Ae’o

For this year's final native bird of the month installment, we look to our wetlands and the Hawaiian Stilt (Himantopus mexiacanus knudseni, or ae'o). The ae'o is nearly identical to its mainland relative, the Black-Necked Stilt, but is considered its own distinct subspecies due its long tenure here in the Hawaiian Islands.

I spent many hours monitoring this species in wetlands on Oahu and Hawaii Island, and they're still one of my favorites. From a behavioral standpoint, this species is fun to watch. Their long legs and bill allow them to ply shallow ponds for a variety of food sources. During nesting season, they use the "broken wing" display to lead predators (and biologists) away from their nest location.

Hatchlings that have not developed feathers yet are perfectly camouflaged, making them impossible to locate without multiple spotters, If you got too close to the hatchlings, the adults would literally hit you with their wing tips as they buzzed by, squawking loudly in an effort to protect their young. Aerial predators, like the pueo, 'auku'u or 'iwa, were subject to "mobbing" by multiple adults to chase them away from their wetland areas. All in all, they made for an entertaining trip to the wetland.

Thanks everyone for following my column this year!

(Photo provided by Coach P)

(Photo provided by Coach P)

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