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Oloma`o: The Moloka`i Thrush

One of the best singers in the native Hawaiian forest, the Moloka'i Thrush, Myadestes lanaiensis, was commonly found on Maui, Lana'i and Moloka'i, but has fallen onto the endangered species list. It was last seen on Lana'i in 1933 and though Moloka'i is only ten miles away, it remains protected in Moloka'is rugged mountains of rain forest, particularly within the Nature Conservancy's Kamakou Preserve.

Oloma`o painted by F.W. Frohawk in the late 1800s.

The Oloma'o is one of the larger forest birds, about 7.5 inches long. It is known to be somewhat drab with its brown and green feathers against a white and gray chest. The bird has not been particularly popular for feather collecting.

Principally a fruit eater, it can be seen among tree branches and fruit-bearing vines nibbling away with its short broad beak.

The Oloma'o is particularly noted for its beautiful singing in the forest and sits on the tops of trees, singing loudly at dawn and dusk. With its small numbers, however, few of these bird songs are still sung today.

Oloma'o has become victim of avian malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquitoes hatch in standing water left in wallows dug by wild pigs, which are considered a nuisance to the preservation of Moloka'i's endangered species. In order to improve the health of any remaining Oloma'o and other native birds, the Nature Conservancy has fenced miles of native Moloka'i forest to keep pigs and therefore the mosquitoes out.

Cousins of the Moloka'i thrush include the Kaua'i Thrush, called Kama'o in Hawaiian, and Myadestes myadestinus, by the scientific community. It is found in the Alaka'i Forest and elsewhere on Kaua'i. Also related, is the Townsend's solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) and other members of the solitare family in North and South America.

The Oloma'o is one of more than 65 Hawaiian land birds believed to have been in existence in Hawaii in the 19th Century. Forty percent of them are now extinct and another 40 percent are endangered.

For more information on native Hawaiian birds and the Moloka'i program, call the Nature Conservancy at 808-572-7849.