Friday, October 31, 2014
Bird of the Day: Pueo, the Short-eared Owl of Hawai'i
On a 2009 field trip with my students in Kauai, we were driving down the hill from Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific). I had been on the lookout for native birds all day, and had little success. As we drove by the lower end of the canyon, I was shocked to see an owl on a tree top just a short way off the highway. It was a Hawaiian Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus sandwichensis), a subspecies of Short-eared Owls found on all continents except Antarctic and Australia. Called Pueo by the native Hawaiians, the bird is revered as one of their ancestral spirits.
The owls are having a hard time of it. They nest on the ground and thus are subject to predation by the hated mongooses, rats, and cats. Mongooses were never introduced on the island of Kauai, so the owls are doing somewhat better there.
It was a thrill to see one relatively close, and willing to have a few photos taken. I hope to get back to the islands soon. I truly miss them (it's been four years...).