Elepaio

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image: elepaio_kona.jpg

Common Name: ‘Elepaio (Hawaiian Flycatcher)

Scientific Name: Chasiempis sandwichensis

Size: 6 inches (15 cm)

Habitat: Oceania; Hawaiian Islands. On Hawai`i, C. s. bryani occupies arid, mostly high-altitude mamane and mamane-naio woodland, sandwichensis occurs in mesic habitats on western and south-western slopes, and ridgwayi is restricted to wet, eastern slopes. On O`ahu, ibidis is most abundant in mesic forest in valleys. On Kaua`i, sclateri is most abundant in wet to mesic montane forest, also occurring in woodland, scrub, savanna and drier habitats, at lower densities. It feeds on insects and other invertebrates.

Status: Vulnerable. Global Population: 240,000 Mature individuals. The habitat of the 'elepaio has been heavily browsed by feral ungulates and introduced grasses suppress regeneration and potentially increase the risk of fire. On O`ahu habitat loss to development has been extensive, with 56% of the former range of ibidis zoned for agricultural or urban development. Diseases, such as avain pox and malaria, spread by mosquitos, are a problem at low and middle elevations on all islands, increasing mortality of adults by c.25% on O`ahu, and possibly preventing birds from nesting. Malaria prevalence in the species on O`ahu has been recorded at 87%, with 36% of birds showing signs of avian pox. High prevalences in mosquito-borne diseases and local declines in the species's population are associated with high rainfall. Nest-predation by black rats Rattus rattus is the most serious current problem on O`ahu. Fires are known to destroy key habitat and promote the spread of alien plants on O`ahu. Hurricane Iniki, in 1992, drastically reduced all populations of sclateri.

Diet: Insects, some seed and fruit

Breeding: It nests between January and June. Unlike Hawaiian honeycreepers, both males and females participate almost equally in all aspects of rearing. Finely woven cup nests are built in a variety of native and nonnative trees. Clutch size is usually two and second and third nests are attempted after failures, but rarely is a second nest attempted if the first is successful.


Cool Facts: Hawaiians consider a visit by an ‘Elepaio good luck. In fact, in order to select the proper Koa tree for a canoe it first has to be landed on by an ‘Elepaio. They considered it their guardian spirit, an incarnation of their patron goddess Lea, because if the bird pecked at a fallen tree, it was a sign that the tree was riddled with burrowing insects and thus not good anymore, but when the bird showed no interest in a tree, it indicated that the wood was suitable. This is the origin of the andient Hawaiian proverb, ‘Uā ‘elepaio ‘ia ka wa‘a ("The canoe is marked out by the ‘elepaio").

Being a flycatcher, farmers believed the ‘elepaio to be the incarnation of Lea's sister goddess, Hina-puku-‘ai, who protected food plants and was a patron of agriculture.

The ‘elepaio is the first native bird to sing in the morning and the last to stop singing at night; apart from whistled and chattering contact and alarm calls, it is probably best known for its song, from which derives the common name: a pleasant and rather loud warble which sounds like e-le-PAI-o.

Found in Songbird ReMix Hawai'i

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