Kauaʻi ʻōʻō

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Kauaʻi ʻōʻō
Kauaʻi ʻōʻō

Extinct  (1987) (IUCN 3.1)[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Mohoidae
Genus: Moho
M. braccatus
Binomial name
Moho braccatus
(Cassin, 1855)
  • Mohoa braccata Cassin, 1855[2]
  • Moho nobilis braccatus (Cassin, 1855)[3]
  • Pseudomoho braccatus (Cassin, 1855)[4]
  • Acrulocercus braccatus (Cassin, 1855)[5]

The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō or ʻōʻōʻāʻā (Moho braccatus) was the last member of the ʻōʻō (Moho) genus within the Mohoidae family of birds from the islands of Hawaiʻi. The entire family is now extinct. It was previously regarded as a member of the Australo-Pacific honeyeaters (family Meliphagidae).[6]

The bird was endemic to the island of Kauaʻi. It was common in the subtropical forests of the island until the early twentieth century, when its decline began. It was last seen in 1985, and last heard in 1987. The causes of its extinction include the introduction of predators (such as the Polynesian rat, small Indian mongoose, and the domestic pig), mosquito-borne diseases, as well as habitat destruction.[7]

It was the last surviving member of the Mohoidae, which had originated over 15-20 million years prior during the Miocene, with the Kauaʻi ʻōʻō's extinction marking the only extinction of an entire avian family in modern times ("modern" meaning post-1500 AD).


The native Hawaiians named the bird ʻōʻō ʻāʻā, from the Hawaiian word ʻōʻō, an onomatopoeic descriptor from the sound of their call, and ʻāʻā, meaning dwarf.[8]


Adult and juvenile Moho braccatus

This bird was among the smallest of the Hawaiian ‘ō’ōs, if not the smallest species, at just over 20 centimetres (8 in) in length.[8] The head, wings, and tail were black. The rest of the upperparts were slaty brown, becoming rufous on the rump and flanks. The throat and breast was black with white barring, which was particularly prominent in females. The central tail feathers were long, and there was a small tuft of gray feathers under the base of the wing. While the beak and legs were black, the leg feathers were a rich golden yellow. It was the only ‘ō’ō known to have eyes with yellow irises. Like other honeyeaters it had a sharp, slightly curved bill for sampling nectar. Its favored nectar sources were Lobelia species and the ʻohiʻa lehua tree. This species was additionally observed foraging in lapalapa trees. It also ate small invertebrates and fruit. The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō was very vocal, making hollow, erratic, flute-like calls. Both the males and females were known to sing.


Specimen, Bishop Museum, Honolulu

The bird was a cavity nester in the thickly forested canyons of Kauaʻi. All of its relatives have also become extinct, such as the Hawaiʻi ʻōʻō, Bishop's ʻōʻō, and Oʻahu ʻōʻō. Relatively little is known about these extinct birds. The species became extinct from a large range of problems, including mosquito-transmitted diseases (which caused the species to retreat to higher ground, ultimately retreating to high-altitude montane forests in the Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve), introduction of mammalian predators, and deforestation.[9] Higher elevation forests lack tree cavities, so few, if any, nests could be made. In the 1970s the only known footage of the bird was filmed by John L. Sincock on Super 8 film and several song recordings were made as well (with Harold Douglas Pratt, Jr. being one of the people involved in recording the songs).[10]

The final blow was two hurricanes coming within ten years of each other. They destroyed many of the old trees with cavities, and prohibited tree growth when the second one arrived, causing the species to disappear. The bird was last sighted in 1985, and the last sound recording was made in 1987 by David Boynton.[11][12] It is still believed by some that the species may survive undetected, as the species had already been proclaimed extinct twice: once in the 1940s (later rediscovered in 1950) and again from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, being rediscovered by the wildlife biologist John Sincock.[citation needed] However, it has a loud and distinctive call, and intensive surveys have failed to find any since 1987.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Moho braccatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22704323A93963628. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22704323A93963628.en. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  2. ^ Cassin, John (1855). "Notices of some new and little known Birds in the collection of the U. S. Exploring Expedition in the Vincennes and Peacock, and in the collection of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 7: 440. JSTOR 4059092.
  3. ^ Bryan, E. H., Jr.; Greenway, J. C., Jr. (1944). "Contribution to the ornithology of the Hawaiian Islands". Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy at Harvard College. 94 (2): 137.
  4. ^ Mathews, Gregory M. (April 25, 1925). "Nomenclatural Notes". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 45 (296): 93.
  5. ^ Wilson, Scott B.; Evans, A. H. (December 1890). "Acrulocercus braccatus". Aves Hawaiienses: The Birds of the Sandwich Islands. Part I. London: R. H. Porter. pp. 99–101, Plate 40.
  6. ^ Fleischer, Robert C.; James, Helen F.; Olson, Storrs L. (December 23, 2008). "Convergent evolution of Hawaiian and Australo-Pacific honeyeaters from distant songbird ancestors". Current Biology. 18 (24): 1927–1931. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.10.051. ISSN 1879-0445. PMID 19084408. S2CID 17660932.
  7. ^ "Kauai Oo - Introduction | Birds of North America Online". birdsna.org. Retrieved November 14, 2019. Negative factors have included destruction and modification of native forests; introduction of nonnative mammals to the islands (rats, Indian mongoose, pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, domestic cats) [...] introduction of nonnative birds and associated diseases; introduction of mosquitoes; and exploitation of the ‘ö‘ö for feathers.
  8. ^ a b Denny, Jim (1999). The Birds of Kauaʻi. University of Hawai'i Press. p. 24. ISBN 0824820975. OCLC 39695505. The Hawaiian word ʻāʻā means "dwarf" or "small" and was given to the Kaua'i species because it was smaller than the three races found on the other islands.
  9. ^ "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
  10. ^ "ML: Macaulay Library". www3.macaulaylibrary.org. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
  11. ^ Brooks, T.; Khwaja, N.; Mahood, S.; Amrtin, R. (December 20, 2020) [2011]. "Kauai Oo Moho braccatus". birdlife.org. Kaua'i, Hawaii, USA: Birdlife International. Retrieved April 13, 2018 – via QPQ Software Ltd.
  12. ^ "The Extinction of the Kauai ʻōʻō". Island Conservation. August 3, 2018. Retrieved November 14, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lewis, Daniel (2018). Belonging on an Island: Birds, Extinction and Evolution in Hawaii. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. ISBN 978-0-3002-2964-6.. Chapter 2 of the book is about the ʻōʻō, including the work of John Sincock, who rediscovered the bird in the early 1970s.
  • Kauaʻi ʻōʻō
  • ML: Macaulay Library
  • 3D view of specimens RMNH 110.028 and RMNH 110.029 at Naturalis, Leiden (requires QuickTime browser plugin).[dead link]
  • "Kauaʻi ʻŌʻō" (PDF). Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. State of Hawaiʻi. October 1, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 16, 2011.
  • Call of Kauaʻi ʻōʻō; Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Macaulay library Kauai Oo Moho Braccatus ML6050 John L. Sincock, June 6, 1975 Alakai Swamp, Kauai Hawaii
  • Banko, Winston E. (December 1981). History of endemic Hawaiian birds. Part I. Population histories – species accounts. Forest birds: 'Ō'ō, and Kioea (Report). CPSU-UH Avian History Report. 7B. pp. 175–185. hdl:10125/346.
  • Sykes, P.W. Jr.; Kepler, A.K.; Kepler, C.B.; Scott, J.M. (2000). Kauai'i 'O'o. Birds of North America. 535. Washington, DC: American Ornithologists' Union. pp. 1–32.

External links[edit]