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


Systematics History

Honeyeaters comprise 42 genera and 182 species in the family Meliphagidae, with a center of abundance in the Australo-Papuan region. They extend west to Sulawesi I. in Indonesia, north and east to New Zealand, Micronesia, Samoa, and Hawaiian Is. (Sibley and Monroe 1990). Two genera and 5 species (4 ‘ö‘ö species and the Kioea) are endemic to the Hawaiian Is.

Geographic Variation

All species monotypic. With such restricted ranges and limited knowledge of each, it is not surprising that no geographic variation has been noted or subspecies described.


All species monotypic. With such restricted ranges and limited knowledge of each, it is not surprising that no geographic variation has been noted or subspecies described.

Related Species

Among the 4 ‘ö‘ö species, O‘ahu, Bishop's, and Hawai‘i ‘ö‘ö are considered each other's closest relatives, the 3 species possibly constituting a superspecies (American Ornithologists' Union 1998a). No phylogenetic study of Moho is available.

Kioea belongs to a monotypic genus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, American Ornithologists' Union 1998a). To date, fossil material indicates that other species of Chaetoptila possibly existed on O‘ahu and Maui (Olson and James 1982b, James and Olson 1991).

According to DNA-DNA hybridization data, Meliphagidae (honeyeaters) show close relationship to, for example, Laniidae (shrikes), Vireonidae (vireos), Monarchidae (monarchs—e.g., ‘Elepaio [Chasiempis sandwichensis]), and Corvidae (jays and crows), the whole placed in the paraorder Corvida of Sibley and Ahlquist (Sibley and Ahlquist 1990). Honeyeaters diverged from pardalotids (Pardalotus and Australian warblers, formerly Acanthizidae), which have traditionally been allied to Nectariniidae (sunbirds) and Dicaeidae (flowerpeckers; Sibley and Ahlquist 1990).


The name Moho is believed to have been based on a misinterpretation by early travelers of the Hawaiian name for the ‘ö‘ö, according to Wilson and Evans (Wilson and Evans 1890: 106), who traced this information to W. Ellis, assistant surgeon on Cook's third voyage. Ellis wrote: “They have also a kind of fly-flap made of a bunch of feathers fixed to the end of a thin piece of smooth and polished wood: they are generally made of the tail feathers of the cock, but the better sort of people have them of the tropick [tropic] birds feathers, or those belonging to a black and yellow bird called mo-ho.” George Robert Gray was the first to use Moho as a generic term, which was later apparently adapted by Lesson (Lesson 1831) as the genus name for the 4 Hawaiian ‘ö‘ö (Wilson and Evans 1890). Moho has been retained in usage, but it was originally the native Hawaiian name for the now extinct flightless endemic Hawaiian Rail (Porzana sandwichensis; Rothschild 1893a, American Ornithologists' Union 1998a).

Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö. Specific epithet, braccatus, derived from the Latin for “wearing breeches or trousers,” refers to the yellow feathers of the crural tract. In Hawaiian, ‘ö‘ö means to “pierce” or “poke” and ‘ä‘ä means “dwarf” or “small”; hence, the name ‘ö‘ö ‘ä‘ä means “little ‘ö‘ö” (Munro 1944a, Pukui and Elbert 1986).

O‘ahu ‘Ö‘ö. Specific epithet, apicalis, derived from the Latin for “apical” or “apex,” refers to the white tips of tail feathers r2–R6 (Gould 1860).

Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö. Specific epithet, bishopi, is in honor of Charles R. Bishop, founder of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu (Rothschild 1893a, Munro 1944a).

Hawai‘i ‘Ö‘ö. Specific epithet, nobilis, derived from the Latin for “admirable” or “celebrated,” refers to its grandiose plumage.

Kioea. Hawaiian kioea means “standing high on long legs”; the name Kioea or Kiowea has also been applied to Bristle-thighed Curlew (Numenius tahitiensis; Wilson and Evans 1890, Perkins 1903, Munro 1944a). Genus name, Chaetoptila, derived from the Greek khaite, meaning “long flowing hair,” and ptilon, meaning “feather” or “plumage,” refers to open, loose texture of some contour feathers. Specific epithet, angustipluma, derived from the Latin angustus, meaning “narrow” or “small,” and pluma, meaning “featherlet” or “plume,” refers to head and body plumage.

Fossil History

Kaua‘i ‘Ö‘ö. Common fossil in Makawehi Dunes, southeast coast of Kaua‘i I., indicating broad natural distribution on the island in the past (Olson and James 1982b).

O‘ahu ‘Ö‘ö. Known from fossil deposits at Barbers Point, O‘ahu I. (Olson and James 1982b).

Bishop's ‘Ö‘ö. Known from single meliphagid humerus assumed referable to this species from Mo‘omomi Dunes, north coast of Moloka‘i I. (Olson and James 1982b). Fossil of Moho sp. reported for Maui (James and Olson 1991).

Hawai‘i ‘Ö‘ö. James and Olson (James and Olson 1991) listed fossil evidence for Hawai‘i I. but gave no specific locality. With reference to the archipelago, they stated that there appeared to be at least 2 new species of Meliphagidae but deferred descriptions pending further study (James and Olson 1991). Fossil remains of 2 individuals, provisionally identified as M. nobilis, were recovered from lava tube, named Umi‘i Manu Cave (Hawaiian for bird trap), at Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a on north slope of dormant shield volcano, Hualälai, 29 km northwest of Kailua, Kona, Hawai‘i, in late Jul 1992 (Giffin 1993). Cave system extends 3.2 km from 1,311 to 1,890 m elevation and is considered the most significant bird fossil site yet found on Hawai‘i. Age of all bird remains probably less than 3,000 yr .

Kioea. Avian fossils discovered in Jul 1992 in lava tube at Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a (see above; Giffin 1993). Bones of 2 provisionally identified Kioea found at site; first evidence of presence on west side of island (Giffin 1993).

Well-preserved bones of 5 or 6 individuals of a large meliphagid, presumed to be in genus Chaetoptila, found at Barbers Point, O‘ahu I. Because of zoogeographic considerations, probably represents a distinct species, but not yet determined with certainty (Olson and James 1982b, James and Olson 1991). Likewise, fossil re-mains from e. Maui placed in genus Chaetoptila have not been assigned to species (James and Olson 1991).

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