Aiea Trail, Hawaii, June 15, 1979
my parents, who were living near Honolulu, I wanted to see
some of the native Hawaiian birds. There are many birds in
Hawaii, but casual visitors see only the ones that have been
introduced since mankind first arrived in 400 A.D. To see
the native birds, one has to make a special point of it and
go to high elevations.
Hawaiian Islands are surrounded by a lot of ocean, but somehow
a finch arrived there several million years ago. Perhaps it
was a little storm-blown flock that managed to stay together
until they made landfall. Or possibly it was a single pregnant
result of that event is science's favorite textbook example
of "adaptive radiation." With no competition except
from other birds of its own kind, the finch "radiated"
into 28 species of Hawaiian honeycreepers. Now they are famous
for the wild variation of their bills. Some still have ordinary
little bills like finches, but others have thick bills like
parrots, or hooked bills like hawks, or long curved bills
like nothing else on earth.
ancient Hawaiian birds have not fared well under human occupation.
Many species are gone forever. The survivors hide in the remaining
uncut forests above 3,800 feet. My father took me to the Aiea
Trail, in a high tropical forest where he thought Hawaiian
honeycreepers ought to live, and we walked the trail through
lush vegetation. Every tree was different from the ones around
it. Birds I couldn't see through the green leaves tantalized
me with unfamiliar songs.
there," my father said. Where he pointed I saw an Apapaneone
of the native Hawaiian honeycreepers. It was a gorgeous bird
of crimson red, with black wings. (Apapane is pronounced like
"Hop upon knee," but without the initial "H.")
It clung to a vine draped loosely around a tree trunk. The
vine swung and twisted as the bird clambered on it, showing
us the bird from all sides. The sharp, pointed bill curved
slightly, as if designed to follow the inner contour of a
was the first of many wonderful birding times with my father,
for since then he has become a birder too. But none of them
outshines the memory of seeing the Apapane on the Aiea Trail.
Previous | 1
| 3 | 4 | 5
Photo of Oahu Apapane at top of page was taken
by Michael Walther, who graciously granted us permission to
use it here. We found it on the Oahu
Nature Tours Website.