“Ho‘ola‘i na manu i ke aheahe.”
The birds poise quietly in the gentle breezes.
Said of those who are at peace with the world, undisturbed and contented. Source: ‘Olelo No‘eau, by Mary Kawena Pukui.
By 1939, when waterbird game hunting was banned in Hawai‘i, there were very few ae‘o (Hawaiian black-necked stilt) left. In 1982, their population was estimated to be less than 1,000, and mostly on Maui and O‘ahu, according to the Conservation Registry.
The ae‘o, which means “one standing tall,” is endemic to Hawai‘i and is listed as endangered since 1970, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Though their population is recovering, it’s believed there are less than 2,000 of them in Hawai‘i.
Loss of natural habitat and predation of their chicks by native and introduced species are the main threats to the survival of the ae‘o as a species.
Their habitat includes mudflats, ponds and wetlands, such as the Kawaiele Waterbird Sanctuary on Kaua‘i’s Westside, shown in this picture.
The 39-acre sanctuary is also home to the Koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck), the ‘alae ‘ula (Hawaiian moorhen), the ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot) and the occasional nene (Hawaiian goose).