THE HAWAIIAN CROW,'ALALA,
BRINK of EXTINCTION

by Kekoa, 6th grade


The Hawaiian crow known as 'alala is one of the many endangered birds in Hawaii. These Hawaiian crows have once flourished over all the Hawaiian islands in 1891. Now there are less than thirty `alala left in Hawaii. According to the February 15, 1996 issue of the Honolulu Advertiser, the 'alala is down to just 15 birds in captivity and 14 in the wild. The 'alala can be found on a 5,300-acre parcel of Kai Malino Ranch on the Kona Coast of the Big Island, Hawaii.

`Alala means to cry like a young animal. It was named this because the cry of the `alala's call resembles the cry of a child. `Alala is taken from two Hawaiian words, ala and la. Ala, means to rise up, and la, the sun. So, the meaning of `alala is to arise with the sun. It was named this because the Hawaiian crow makes a great noise in the morning. The `alala's call is a harsh caw repeated rapidly. It was the noisiest bird in the lower Kona forests at daybreak. The `alala's feathers are dark brown. Its head and its tail is almost black, its bill, legs, and feet are black and iris brown. Their wings are noisy while in motion, but while the `alala is gliding from tree to tree, it is silent.

During the 1890s the `alala have been hunted down because they were a nuisance. They would get into feed pens and poultry yards. The Hawaiian crows started to disappear because the farmers were killing them. Farmers killed these crows by imitating their cry, and when the alalas would be close enough, the farmers would shoot them. Years later in the early 1900s, there was a big change in the amount of Hawaiian crows in Hawaii. There were no more flocks, only scattered individuals.

The 'alala depended on the fleshy flower and fruit of the ieie vine, the ohelo berry, and other berries in the forests. But as Hawaii developed quickly over the years and alien invaders such as new fruits and livestock were introduced, the food habits changed. Change of diet and bird diseases are other reasons for the decline of the 'alala.

Now people are doing something about the endangerment of the Hawaiian crow. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supports a captive breeding facility in hopes to increase the population of the 'alala. Also the Hawaii Audubon society is trying their best to stop owners of the Big Island ranch from logging koa trees. With the help of the Endangered Species Act and the various environmental organizations, the 'alala still has a chance of surviving. We must try to help our endangered species because if we don't , who will?


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