Tag Archives: Mamane

Feed the birds

A black-crowned night heron tries to eat a tilapia
A house finch eats tree heliotrope fruit

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Feed the Birds.’ See more responses here.

In the top photo, this ambitious juvenile black-crowned night heron snaffled a tilapia from a large backyard pond. However, that was the easy part. I watched it for quite a while, trying to swallow the fish. It flew from the pond into a tree, then on to another one, before returning to the ground beyond some rocks. The fish was still in its beak, but no closer to reaching its stomach.

In the middle photo, a house finch chows down on the fruit of a tree heliotrope (Tournefortia argentea).

In the bottom photo, a palila feeds on a mamane (Sophora chrysophylla) seed pod. Typically, a palila will grab a pod from one place and then take it to another branch to eat it. It pins the green, immature seed pod to the branch, as in this photo, and then bashes away at it with its powerful beak. The seeds are poisonous, but palilas have developed an immunity to the toxins. The brown pods in this photo won’t be eaten by palilas. They will remain on the tree for a long time before dropping and hopefully producing more trees, though mamane seeds have quite low propagation rates.

A palila eats a mamane seed pod

Bees on mamane flowers

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Yellow.’ See more responses here.

This is a good excuse to post more photos of bees foraging on bright yellow māmane flowers. Māmane (Sophora chrysophylla) is endemic to Hawaii, but while its flowers attract many insects, the seeds are highly toxic. The endangered palila, one of the last endemic Hawaiian honeycreepers, is a bird that feeds mostly on the māmane’s immature seed pods without any ill effect.

Long-tailed blue butterfly

Long-tailed Blue Butterfly

I think this is a long-tailed blue butterfly, otherwise known as the bean butterfly. It’s a pest on beans and peas and also wild legumes. My only question about the identification is that the tail, normally seen where the black spots are, is not visible here. But it’s possible that this butterfly has suffered a bit of damage in that area. Some butterflies look so beaten up that it’s a wonder that they’re able to fly at all.

It’s resting on the flowers of a mamane tree.

Palila Forest Discovery Trail

Palila on a branch

Palila with mamane seedI haven’t ever been a real birder, but since moving to Hawaii I’ve been more drawn to them. Because of this interest, one of my favorite places to visit on the Big Island is the Palila Forest Discovery Trail. Opened in July, 2016, this one mile loop trail passes through Mauna Kea’s unique, high-elevation dry forest.

The endangered palila (top two photos, eating a mamane seed), which I posted about previously here, is the signature bird to be seen there, but there are many other kinds of birds, both native and introduced, in the area. In addition, the trail has a good variety of other wildlife from bugs to wild pigs. To top it off, the views towards Mauna Loa (below) and Maui are wonderful.

Finally, the drive to the trail goes along Old Saddle Road, which is a fun drive and a place where I often see pueos, the native Hawaiian owl, as well as wild turkeys and other birds and wildlife. All in all, a trip I never tire of making.

The Palila Forest Discovery Trail is featured on the Hawaii Island Coast to Coast Trail, a selection of sites that offer birding opportunities on the Big Island. For more information about Hawaii Island Coast to Coast Trail, go to hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/.

For more information about Palila Forest Discovery Trail, go to dlnr.hawaii.gov/restoremaunakea/palila-forest-discovery-trail/.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge, ‘Favorite place’.

View of Mauna Loa from Palila trail