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GALLERIES > BIRDS > PASSERIFORMES > FRINGILLIDAE > HAWAII MAMO [Drepanis pacifica]

Hawaii Mamo Picture
 
 

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SPECIES INFO

The Hawai'i Mamo (Drepanis pacifica) was a species of finch in the Fringillidae family. It was endemic to Hawaii. It became extinct due to habitat loss and overcollecting. One of the most prettiest of all the birds to disappear during this extinction point was the Hawaiian Mamo. This bird was very black except for lovely orange-yellow feathers on its legs, primary feathers, on its bottom and near the tail. It had small beady black eyes and was the centerpiece of portraits for some years. This bird had a slightly curving blackish yellow bill and it was long, some three inches long. This was a shy species that lived in the forest canopy and fed on nectar of lobelia that possessed curved, tubular flowers. It's call was a long, plaintive whistle. The bird was one of the most honored of the birds in Hawaiian society. In fact the Hawaiian Mamo was held in such honor that the orange feathers of this bird was used to create capes and hats that were used by royalty. This was one of the reasons why the bird had diminished. The bright golden-yellow feathers of the Hawai`i mamo were prized for the featherwork worn by the Hawaiian royalty. The famous yellow cloak of Kamehameha I is estimated to have taken the reigns of eight monarchs and the golden feathers of 80,000 Hawai'i Mamos before it was completed. But how the natives caught so many birds was a thought by Europeans. From watching a native, scientists saw that they got sap of the sandalwood tree and the breadfruit and added water to create a very sticky paste that would be placed near the blossoms of lobelias and had just waited for the inevitable. A hungry Hawaiian Mamo arrives to take a sip at the nectar deep within the flower, the feet of the bird would get stuck in the sap. The native would come back and eventually take the bird from the sticky sap, and pluck the orange feathers one by one till they were all plucked. The next step created a big argument, some scientists claim that after they were plucked they were kept as pet or cooked to be eaten creating problems for populations. Others said that the birds were released after they were finished. However even if the birds were released the birds would still be in a state of shock and may hurt themselves after being released. The birds were also a big hit to the Europeans as well who liked to get specimens for their collections. The land that Hawaiian Mamo liked was being changed for agriculture and for cattle ranching, which caused more damage to the birds food plants. The cattle which were kept were not put in fences at first, allowing them to run amuck in the forest and destroy the understory ecosystem. Even though it was discovered early and was well known to the Hawaiians, it quickly disappeared. There are many specimens of this bird in USA and in Europe. The bird seemed to disappear in the year of 1899, however reports of this bird held on for a few more years. The Hawai'i Mamo was last seen in 1899 near Kaumana on Hawai'i by a collector, H. W. Henshaw, who, as mentioned by Tim Flannery in his book, A Gap In Nature, shot and wounded a bird he was stalking, before it escaped him with another bird.





                                     



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