birds

Molokaʻi Creeper

This is a lovely kind of honeycreeper (a kind of small songbird bird endemic to Hawaii),  formerly found on the island of Moloka’i. Also known as the Kākāwahie, which means “to break up firewood”; their call reminded listeners of the chip of someone chopping wood. This bird resembled a ball of flame, especially in flight. The males were scarlet red all around. Females had a…

Bachman’s Warbler

  Bachman’s Warbler was named after the Reverend John Bachman, a good friend of Audubon’s, who collaborated with him on his second book, Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, as author of the text. Bachman served as a pastor in Charleston, South Carolina for 56 years, and met Audubon as a result of his ongoing research into local natural history. Audubon visited Charleston…

Mauritius Blue Pigeon

An extinct species of blue pigeon formerly native to the Mascarene Island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It had stiff, white, pointed hackles around the head, neck and breast and blue plumage on the body, and it was red on the tail and the bare parts of the head. These colours were similar to those of the…

Stephens Island Wren

  Stephens Island is a tiny bit of land off the northernmost tip of the South Island of New Zealand. It was called Takapourewa by the Maori. The best known residents of Stephens Island are the tuatara, a rare and exotic species of reptile native to New Zealand,  the Stephens Island Wren, a nocturnal and flightless species of wren native only…

Four Colored Flowerpecker

Otherwise known as the Cebu Flowerpecker. Endemic to Cebu Island in the Philippines. After massive deforestation it was thought to be extinct, but in a late breaking development, this tiny 12 centimeter bird was rediscovered in a small patch of forest in the Central Cebu Protected Landscape, and then subsequently also in a few other scattered bits of forest. The current…

Kangaroo and King Island Emus

One of the things I’ve learned from the great book The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions by David Quammen is that funny things happen on islands. Species get smaller or larger, or weirder and more complex. Islands are where you find hundred of lemurs, giant tortoises, dwarf elephants, gigantic flesh-eating lizards, and other exotic creatures. Both…

New Zealand Quail

  The New Zealand Quail (Coturnix novaezelandiae) has been officially extinct since 1875. Sir Joseph Banks was the first westerner to describe it; he was an illustrious naturalist, mostly interested in botany, who accompanied Captain James Cook on his famous sea voyage from 1768–1771, exploring the globe and dispersing invasive species around the world. Cook took several jaunts around the globe, often…

Hoopoe Starling

We’re back to birds now that the new year is over. Without further ado, I give you the Hoopoe Starling. The Hoopoe Starling also goes by the names Bourbon Crested Starling, Huppe, Crested Starling, or Réunion Starling. The Hoopoe Starling was discovered in 1669 and first described 1783 by the Dutch Naturalist Pieter Boddaert, who found it in its home on the island of Réunion in…

Bonin Islands Grosbeak

Back to birds! Bonin Island Grosbeaks were technically not Grosbeaks, and technically only found on one of the Bonin Islands, (though maybe at one point it had lived on more than one). So let’s start at the beginning: 1. Where are the Bonin Islands? The Bonin Islands are also known as the Ogasawara Islands, and are an archipelago of over…

Choiseul Crested Pigeon

Described as having a beautiful rising and falling whistling call. From Choiseul, one of the Solomon Islands off the coast of New Guinea. Choiseul had no carnivorous mammals (other than man, who sometimes hunted it for food) before the introduction of feral cats by visitors to the islands; the indigenous population on the island told researchers that the pigeon was…