Kauai Oo Moho braccatus Scientific name definitions

Paul W. Sykes Jr., Angela K. Kepler, Cameron B. Kepler, and J. Michael Scott
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 1, 2000



Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö. Endemic to Kaua‘i I. (Figure 1 and Figure 2); probably extinct. Known from 111 extant museum specimens (see Appendix 1), fossil materials (Olson and James 1982b), and sightings and vocalizations through 1987 (Munro 1944a, Richardson and Bowles 1964, Sincock et al. 1984, Scott et al. 1986, Pyle 1987, Conant et al. 1998). Type specimen (ANSP 18581) taken between 10 Feb and 16 Mar 1835 (specific date not known) by John Kirk Townsend on Kaua‘i I., and species described by John Cassin (Cassin 1855; see Appendix 2). No specific locality given for collection site, but Townsend stayed at Köloa and made short expeditions into the surrounding area, so the type locality is in the vicinity of Köloa (Townsend 1839, Cassin 1855). Formerly (1899 and earlier) widespread throughout Kaua‘i forests from sea level to near mountain summits (Wilson and Evans 1890, Munro 1944a). Estimated to have occupied 1,429 km2in 6 of 7 native forest types (Scott et al. 1986).

O‘ahu ‘Ö‘ö. Endemic to O‘ahu I. (Figure 1); extinct. Known from 10 extant museum specimens (see Appendix 1) and fossil material (Olson and James 1982b). Historically, probably found throughout O‘ahu from sea level to mountain peaks. Species described by John Gould (Gould 1860) from 2 specimens at British Museum of Natural History (see Appendix 2).

Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö. Endemic to Moloka‘i I. (Figure 1); probably extinct. Two sightings by single observers of possible individuals of this species on Maui in 1901 (Henshaw 1902a) and 1981 (Sabo 1982) are interesting because no Moho has been positively demonstrated to occur on Maui since Western contact, in 1778 (Munro 1944a, Scott et al. 1986). Known from 29 extant museum specimens (see Appendix 1) and fossil material from Moloka‘i (Olson and James 1982b). Species described by Walter Rothschild (Rothschild 1893a) from a male collected by Henry C. Palmer on 26 Dec 1892 (AMNH 693923; see Appendix 2). Historically, probably found throughout Moloka‘i from sea level to mountaintops (Perkins 1903). Species estimated to have occupied 672 km2on Moloka‘i in all 7 recognized native forest types (Scott et al. 1986).

Hawai‘i ‘Ö‘ö. Endemic to Hawai‘i I. (Figure 1); extinct. Known from 150 extant museum specimens (see Appendix 1) and fossil material (James and Olson 1991, Giffin 1993). J. Latham (Latham 1782: 683) originally described species as “Yellow-tufted Bee-eater” and executed an unfinished drawing; did not assign it a scientific name or distinguish between M. nobilis and M. braccatus, but his description and drawing apply to nobilis (Wilson and Evans 1890, Rothschild 1893a, Medway 1981). Blasius Merrem described and illustrated the species as Gracula nobilis in 1784 from a specimen at the Göttingen Museum that had been presented by King George III of Great Britain; this skin had been collected in Kona District on Hawai‘i I. on Captain Cook's third voyage (Merrem 1786, Wilson and Evans 1890, Medway 1981). No specimens of M. nobilis from Captain Cook's third voyage are known to have survived (Medway 1981). Hence, type specimen of Merrem no longer exists. Scientific name has changed numerous times (e.g., Gracula nobilis, Merops niger, Philemon fasciculatus, Meliphaga fasciculata, Acrulocercus niger, Moho niger, Ptiloturus fasciculatus, Mohoa fasciculata, Acrulocerus nobilis); now Moho nobilis (Merrem; Wilson and Evans 1890, Rothschild 1893a, Munro 1944a, American Ornithologists' Union 1998a). Apparently widespread throughout forested regions (Wilson and Evans 1890, Munro 1944a). Species estimated to have occupied 7,720 km2in all 7 recognized native forest types (Scott et al. 1986).

Kioea. Endemic to Hawai‘i I. (Figure 1); extinct. Known from 4 specimens (see Appendix 1): type specimen (NMNH 15771) collected in 1840 by Titian R. Peale (Peale 1848, Greenway 1958; see Appendix 2), and 3 specimens collected between 1851 and 1859 by James D. Mills (AMNH 458995, BPBM 17, and UMZC 27/mel/6/a/1; Rothschild 1907, Greenway 1958, Manning 1979a). Type specimen taken on high plateau (saddle area) between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea (Perkins 1903), and all of Mills's specimens, according to Henry Palmer, Walter Rothschild's collector, were procured on eastern slope of Mauna Loa between lower Volcano House in village of ‘Öla‘a (now Mountain View), Puna District, and northeast of Kilauea Crater on Hilo-Volcano Road (Rothschild 1893a, Manning 1979a). Discovery of fossil deposits in 1992 (see Fossil history, below) in North Kona District on west side of Hawai‘i I. (Giffin 1993) indicated that the geographic distribution probably was more widespread than previous evidence had suggested. Fossil deposits reveal a similar species of Chaetoptila on O‘ahu and East Maui, but they await further study (Olson and James 1982b, James and Olson 1991).

Historical Changes to the Distribution

Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö. Considered “common” throughout Kaua‘i forests until 1891, and “still not uncommon” in 1899 (Munro 1944a). Precipitous decline in population must have occurred after 1900, since Munro (Munro 1944a) was unable to find any birds during 4 visits from 1928 to 1936. Decline corresponds with second phase of extinctions, in early 1900s, among Hawai‘i's avifauna (see Conservation and management, below).

Donaghho (Donaghho 1941) found no ‘ö‘ö on 3-wk visit to Kaua‘i (Köke‘e area, Kalalau Valley, vicinity of Kahöluamanu) in 1941, but mentioned 1 report in 1940 by Eric Knudsen without specific date or locality. An ‘ö‘ö observation attributed to Donaghho (Donaghho 1941) in 1936 (Richardson 1961c, Richardson and Bowles 1964, Scott et al. 1986) appears to be a misinterpretation, since Donaghho does not specifically state or imply that he observed an ‘ö‘ö on his 1936 visit to Kaua‘i. Pearsall (Pearsall 1947) saw 2 ‘ö‘ö on 6 Sep 1946 near Kohua Ridge.

Frank Richardson collected a male (BPBM 6701) on 21 Jul 1960 on upper Koai‘e Stream at about 990 m elevation in Alaka‘i Swamp (Richardson and Bowles 1964). This was the first specimen taken since George C. Munro had collected 3 (BPBM 6074, 6181, and 6315) in 1899 at Makawehi, and the last specimen ever taken of a Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö (PWS). Richardson and Bowles (Richardson and Bowles 1964) observed at least 12 other individuals on 21 Jul and 16–18 Aug 1960 in Alaka‘i Swamp near head of Koai‘e Stream, at about 1,145 m elevation. On 3 Sep 1961, “several” were heard in a number of small valleys near Koai‘e cabin and along trail on Kawai Iki Ridge toward Wai‘alae cabin, including 1 flying (Bowles 1962). Mike Ord saw 2 in Sep 1963 in Alaka‘i Swamp (Anonymous 1967), and on 23 Sep 1965 he heard 1 calling on ridge above Koai‘e cabin. In Dec 1965, Eugene Kridler (J. L. Sincock unpubl.) had 1 near upper Koai‘e Stream. John L. Sincock heard ‘ö‘ö calling, but did not see it, on 27 Jun 1968 on Kawai Iki Ridge 1.6 km northwest of Wai‘alae cabin. It seemed to respond to imitations of its call for 5 min before moving away. He heard it calling again on 21 Nov 1968 on ridge southeast of Koai‘e cabin (J. L. Sincock unpubl.). On 8–9 Jun 1972, Sincock (unpubl.) saw 6 ‘ö‘ö at one time. He studied a pair on headwaters of Halehaha Stream from 26 May 1971 through remainder of 1970s (Pyle 1979, Sincock et al. 1984). Apparently the same pair was studied from 2 to 7 Jul 1975 on territory by Sheila Conant, H. Douglas Pratt, and Robert J. Shallenberger (Conant et al. 1998). Sincock et al. (Sincock et al. 1984) estimated a population of 36 birds in 1968–1973. Sincock found them only within se. and sw. Alaka‘i Swamp. Species steadily declined in number after 1968 and was extirpated from Koai‘e Stream area. Last known birds were located in remote part of Alaka‘i with torrential rainfall (Sincock et al. 1984). Richardson and Bowles (Richardson and Bowles 1964) found no Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö in this area; habitat may be marginal (Scott et al. 1986).

Mark S. Collins (pers. comm.) and others found only a lone male at nest site (see Figure 2, inset) on Halepa‘akai Stream on 26–27 Feb, 9 Apr, 17 Jun, 6 Oct, 5 and 7 Nov 1980, and 12 Jan 1981 during U.S. Forest Service Keauhou Bird Survey. The lone male was moving stealthily about its territory vocalizing and sometimes visiting nest. In 1981, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Kaua‘i Forest Bird Survey estimated a total population of only 2 birds, a single pair (Scott et al. 1986). Center of Hurricane ‘Iwa passed just off north coast of Kaua‘i on 23 Nov 1982 (Pyle 1983). The first posthurricane visit deep into the Alaka‘i Swamp was on 23–27 May 1983 by Dave Boynton, John Sincock, and PWS. One territorial male was found at a nest (same nest as M. S. Collins had seen in 1980) and observed at leisure during 3 days on Halepa‘akai Stream (see Figure 2, inset), but no female was seen. Female of this (what is believed to have been the last pair) was not seen after Hurricane ‘Iwa (Pyle 1983). USFWS Forest Bird Survey team saw 1 bird and may have heard another in May 1984 in same area as 1983 sighting, and saw a lone bird again in Sep 1984 (Scott et al. 1986). The lone male was last seen at old nest site on Halepa‘akai Stream on USFWS Forest Bird Survey (Steve Mountainspring) in Jun 1985 (Pyle 1985a, pers. comm.). Last report of a Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö was by Cynthia and James Krakowski, who heard (but did not see) 1 individual near Halepa‘akai Stream, vocalizing twice on 28 Apr and 3 times on 29 Apr 1987 (Pyle 1987). In summary, all twentieth-century observations are limited to Alaka‘i Swamp, and since 1970s to isolated southeastern portion near Halehaha and Halepa‘akai Streams (see Figure 2, inset).

Survey in Feb 1989 by state agency biologists in area where last individual was observed found no ‘ö‘ö, and their report speculated that the species was “now probably gone” (Pyle 1990: 99). There have been no credible reports since 1987, despite many searches. Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö is probably now extinct. Its loud vocalizations, easily heard at 100 m, are difficult to overlook.

O‘ahu ‘Ö‘ö. Little-known and first Hawaiian honeyeater to become extinct after Western contact (1778). Not described until 20 yr or so after its disappearance (Gould 1860). Feathers probably used in feather work by native Hawaiians. Probably once common, but uncommon at time of Western contact. Reported only during 50-yr period after first collected in 1786–1787 (Dixon 1789, Wilson and Evans 1890). Olson and James (Olson and James 1994a) and Olson (Olson 1996b) traced ornithological exploration in Hawaiian Is. from Cook to Perkins, clarifying information about most extant specimens and incompleteness of some literature. Two specimens (Munro 1944a) were apparently collected during Captain George Dixon's (Dixon 1789) voyage around the world, in which he visited Hawaiian Is. in 1786 and 1787. Dixon (Dixon 1789) published a color plate of a “Yellow-tufted Bee-eater, Variety A” that is obviously an O‘ahu ‘Ö‘ö, but it was not recognized at the time as distinct; it took another 70 yr before Gould (Gould 1860) described the species, and it was even later when the island of origin was determined (Olson and James 1994a, Olson 1996b). In 1825, the British frigate HMS Blonde, under command of Lord Byron (George Anson, seventh Lord Byron, first cousin and successor to renowned poet), visited O‘ahu with Andrew Bloxam as expedition naturalist (Olson 1996b). One male (BMNH VEL.26.19a [Old Vellum Catalogue 26.19a]; Munro 1944a) was obtained in 1825 by Bloxam, who purchased it from a local Hawaiian (Olson 1996b), but the specimen label credits Captain Lord Byron. M. Botta collected a female (MNHN 10.223) in Sep 1834 at unspecified locality. John Kirk Townsend and Thomas Nuttall collected on O‘ahu in Jan 1835, and Townsend and Ferdinand Deppe collected in “Nuano” (Nu‘uanu) Valley in Jan 1837 (Townsend 1839). Two specimens taken by Townsend (female, FMNH 306728; male, MCZ 17598) do not have dates or localities identified. However, at least 3 specimens (males, NMW 50.783, ZMB 7851; female, ZMB 7852) taken in 1837 by Deppe are undoubtedly from Nu‘uanu Valley (Olson and James 1994a, Lepson 1998); male at NMW is known to have been collected in Jan (“Enero”) 1837, as stated on specimen label. Last known report of this species was shortly after Deppe took Jan 1837 specimen (NMW 50.783; Rothschild 1907, Greenway 1958), but a female (AMNH 306357) collected by Deppe has date of 7 Sep 1840 on original label.

There are 2 syntypes: an adult male (AMNH 45900), originally from Gould collection, bearing BMNH 1860.11.26.50 catalogue number, exchanged with Rothschild in 1895 and later acquired by AMNH; and an adult female, originally from Gould collection, still BMNH 1860.11.26.51 (Knox and Walters 1994). These syntypes may be the 2 specimens obtained on Dixon's voyage of 1786 and 1787, since 8 of 10 known extant specimens can be accounted for by names of collectors and dates on which they were known to be on O‘ahu as revealed by examination of specimen labels and information presented by Olson and James (Olson and James 1994a), Knox and Walters (Knox and Walters 1994), and Olson (Olson 1996b). None of the early exploratory expeditions, apparently because of rugged, often wet terrain and dense vegetation, penetrated far inland. All 10 O‘ahu ‘Ö‘ö specimens were probably obtained in or near present metropolitan area of Honolulu (Banko 1981b), perhaps within a day's ride by horseback or hiking. Four-lane Pali Highway (State Route 61), connecting Honolulu to Kailua on north shore of O‘ahu, now runs through Nu‘uanu Valley, the only known collection site for at least 3 specimens. All reports of “black forest birds” on O‘ahu since mid-1800s have been unsubstantiated and likely are misidentifications of introduced species (Banko Banko 1979c, Banko 1981b, Pratt et al. 1987).

Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö. Little known; all extant specimens were taken from 1880 to 1904 on Moloka‘i. Yellow feathers probably were used in artifacts by native Hawaiians. R. M. Meyer (Charles Bishop's ranch manager on Moloka‘i) and his family members collected many Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö in 1880s, and Meyer's descendants are reported to still own some specimens on Moloka‘i (Munro 1944a, Olson and James 1994a). It is unknown whether anyone since Munro has examined these specimens, if in fact even he did. Henry C. Palmer, collecting for Walter Rothschild, was first to document the existence of this species when he collected a specimen on 16 Dec 1892 in the vicinity of Kalua‘aha, Moloka‘i I., and collected a second specimen, which is the type (AMNH 693923), on 26 Dec 1892, apparently in the same general area (Rothschild 1893a, Munro 1944a). Working out of Püko‘o, Palmer collected 16 specimens from 16 Dec 1892 through Feb 1893, during which time he found them in small numbers (Rothschild 1893a, Banko 1981b, Olson and James 1994a). Rothschild (Rothschild 1893a) stated that Palmer apparently found this species rare in Jan 1893 above Hälawa (e. Moloka‘i), at much higher elevation than near Pü-ko‘o. R. C. L. Perkins visited Moloka‘i 3 times in 1893 (May–Jun, Jul–Sep, Oct–Nov), collecting 12 specimens (Banko Banko 1979c, Banko 1981b, Olson and James 1994a, PWS). According to Perkins's 1893 field journal, he observed and collected mostly at higher elevations, including Makakupa‘ia (now possibly Küpä‘ia) and vicinity, near top of ridge to Pelekunu Pali and beyond, at Waikolu (where it was once common), Pelekunu Valley, and above head of valley on the way from Pelekunu Village to Kamalö (Banko 1981b). Perkins revisited Moloka‘i in Jun 1896 but reported no ‘ö‘ö (Banko 1981b). Perkins (Perkins 1903) summarized relative abundance and distribution of ‘ö‘ö on his visits in 1893, 1896, and 1902, on the latter date with George C. Munro. Perkins indicated that this species was much less numerous than it had been formerly on leeward and windward sides of the island—far from extinct, but greatly decreased within comparatively recent times and no longer occurring in extensive tracts where it once had been very plentiful. Munro (Munro 1944a, Munro 1947a) was last to observe a live Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö on Moloka‘i, in 1904, when he had a close view of a group of “about half a dozen” on wooded sides of a cliff overlooking Waikolu Valley. He collected a specimen from this group (Munro 1944a). This specimen, “mutilated” according to Munro (Munro 1944a: 86), is now BPBM 6081 (part of skin and skull, without date). Alanson Bryan and Munro both failed to find ‘ö‘ö on Moloka‘i in 1907 (Bryan 1908, Munro 1944a). Munro (Munro 1944a) was informed that this species had frequented Wailau Trail in 1915, but this was never confirmed. Munro (Munro 1947a) found none on his 1936 survey, and none were reported on more recent searches (Richardson 1949, Pekelo Pekelo 1963, Pekelo 1963, Pekelo 1967, Pratt 1974c, Scott et al. Scott et al. 1977a, Scott et al. 1986).

Moloka‘i and Maui were connected as recently as 10,000 yr (Juvik and Austring 1979); thus, any ‘ö‘ö on Maui might reasonably be assumed to be Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö (Sabo 1982). Early anecdotal evidence indicates that an unidentified ‘ö‘ö did occur on the island. L. F. Judd (Judd 1880), while being escorted across w. Maui mountains by Hawaiians in 1828, learned they were trained to catch little black birds called ‘ö‘ö, which had a few yellow feathers under the wings. First probable sighting of an ‘ö‘ö on Maui was that by Henshaw (Henshaw 1902a) on 9 Jun 1901, when he saw and heard an adult male northwest of Olinda. He thought it was Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö, but published no details. James D. Jacobi in 1973 heard ‘ö‘ö-like vocalizations in upper Hanawï watershed, Maui I., but did not see the bird (Sabo 1982). J. Michael Scott and Stephen R. Sabo (i.e., Mountainspring) on 18 May 1980 observed a black bird with ‘ö‘ö silhouette feeding on ‘öhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) flowers from distance of 35 m for 20–25 s, but details of color were obscured by heavy overcast. Bird was estimated to be 25 cm long; black decurved bill 4–5 cm long; graduated streaming tail 10–12 cm long; and light-colored axillary wing-patch (Sabo 1982). This bird did not call. Sabo (Sabo 1982) described in convincing detail his observation of vocalizations, plumage, and behavior of a probable adult male Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö at 1,850–1,900 m elevation on Ko‘olau Forest Reserve, Maui I., on 10 May 1981. Seen for about 30 s at 30–40 m with 8x binoculars at 11:15; vocalizations heard off and on from 10:00 to 11:45. Also, several other independent unpublished sightings of ‘ö‘ö-like birds were made from 1981 to 1986 (David Boynton pers. comm., AKK). These observations indicate that a possible ‘ö‘ö, most likely Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö, may have occurred on Maui, or may still occur in very low numbers, but, to date, there is no verifiable substantiation (specimen, voice recording, or photograph). In addition, none of the efforts to track down numerous reports of ‘ö‘ö-like vocalizations on Maui have resulted in a sighting.

Hawai‘i ‘Ö‘ö. One of the most spectacular of native birds; disappeared early in twentieth century. Highly prized for feather work (Brigham 1899, Malo 1951, Buck 1957, Kaeppler Kaeppler 1970, Kaeppler 1985). Once common and widespread; best-known ‘ö‘ö species by indigenous people (Wilson and Evans 1890, Perkins 1893b). Common above Kawa‘aloa, Kona District, in 1891 and 1892, but by 1894 it had disappeared (Munro 1944a). As late as 1898, more than 1,000 were shot during the year by feather hunters north of Wailuku River west of Hilo (Henshaw 1902a). Henshaw (Henshaw 1902a: 70–71) further states, “Today it is fast nearing extermination. The districts of ‘Öla‘a and Puna are today almost absolutely tenantless of this beautiful bird, where formerly there were multitudes.” Henshaw collected at least 23 specimens in 1900–1902. Last specimen, a female (LACM 16983, a mount), was taken on 13 May 1902 at Ka‘au Crater by M. L. Walton. By 1915, Bryan (Bryan 1915) indicated that Hawai‘i ‘Ö‘ö was “practically gone.” Munro (Munro 1944a) mentioned a bird thought to be Hawai‘i ‘Ö‘ö that was heard but not seen on slopes of Mauna Loa about 1934. Numerous unverified reports during 1900s, including from windward Mauna Kea in 1970s (Banko 1981b). None detected on extensive Hawai‘i Forest Bird Surveys in 1976–1979 and 1983 (Scott et al. 1986), nor any since.

Kioea. Nothing known of relative abundance, but considered rare in 1840s, when first discovered (Peale 1848). No reliable reports after James D. Mills secured his third and last specimen, about 1859 (UMZC 27/mel/6/a/1); sometime after that date, species went extinct (Atkinson 1977). Evidently not used in feather work, and by late 1880s to early 1900s, species not known by name or tradition by Hawaiians in ‘Öla‘a area (Wilson and Evans 1890, Perkins 1903).

Figure 1. Distribution of Kauai Oo - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Figure 1. Distribution of Kauai Oo

Figure 1. Historical year-round distribution of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Bishop’s, and Hawai‘i ‘ö‘ö, and of Kioea.

Recommended Citation

Sykes Jr., P. W., A. K. Kepler, C. B. Kepler, and J. M. Scott (2020). Kauai Oo (Moho braccatus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.kauoo.01