Big lily pad or small bird?
Waimea Valley Audubon Center- Oahu, Hawaii
Well, its kind of both. The lily pads are huge but even more amazing is that little black bird.
This bird is an `Alae`ula (also referred to as a moorhen or mudhen) and there's less than 500 of these endangered birds anywhere in the world! The `Alae only live on Kau`i and O`ahu and there were at least 10 of them right in the area where this picture was taken. It was an awe inspiring moment.
These 6 to 8 inch tall birds don't have webbed feet but they prefer to hang out in the shallow wetlands and were paddling about the marshes like little black ducks. In the wild these birds are usually rather shy but these guys are being raised and cared for by the Audubon Society in Waimea Valley so they are pretty bold... especially when food is involved. Unfortunately, around the islands, like many places in the world, the wetlands are no longer as plentiful as they once were. The result of development, the lack of wetlands has spelled disaster for most of our native wetlands species of birds.
Hawaiian legend says that the `Alae was responsible for stealing fire from the Gods and bringing fire to the Hawaiian people. As punishment for his deed the Demi-God Maui caught `Alae and rubbed its face and beak in a fiery coal leaving the red shield it bears today.
The success of the Audubon Society in raising and breeding these birds is a real hopeful sign that if we can restore the ecosystems the endangered species from birds to fish to plants may have a chance to recover. Let's hope that the `Alae at least is on its way to being a much more common sight in Hawaii.