Emerging from the dense vegetation of the marsh, the Hawaiian Moorhen, 'Alae 'Ula, pokes her "burnt forehead" out and immediately gets my attention, the bright red frontal plate such a contrast to the green pickleweed. Legend has it that the bird was burned by the fire she carried from the volcano and gave to the Hawaiian people. Though these birds are known for their shy nature, this one swims right over and scampers up the bank on oversized greenish-yellow legs and feet. While they look comical, their feet are very effective for traversing the mud flats and shifting vegetation on the marsh. In minutes, several others join her, and I begin to wonder if the patrons of the nearby restaurant are in the habit of feeding these endangered and endemic birds, so bold are they, and eager to be near me. The 'Alae 'Ula, or Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis, is a subspecies of the common moorhen, a widespread and successful bird. 'Alae 'Ula were also once abundant, but populations were way down by the 1940's. Habitat loss and introduced predators, among other things, have kept their numbers low. Between 1993 and 2003, only around three hundred individuals were known, and in the 2000s, only Kaua'i and O'ahu had 'Alae 'Ula. Attempts were made to reintroduce them to Moloka'i, with little success. Recent reports though, show some increase on the Kaua'i and O'ahu. Nesting occurs year-round, with the greatest activity in the spring and summer. Typically five or so eggs are laid, with the chicks hatching in about three weeks. All the "moor reason" to protect our wetlands.
welcomes you to visit with the all the wonderful flora and fauna that we share this lovely aina with.