I See Dead Things…

Yard Bird - Just LOOK at These Drumsticks and Thighs - The Colonel Wants YOU!
Yard Bird – Just LOOK at These Drumsticks and Thighs – The Colonel Wants YOU!

And smell them even more often… and that’s not a good thing either… years of unfortunate experiences in medicine…

Chickens ABOUND on Molokai – not your caged, egg-laying, fries-up-nicely domesticated tasty one. Free-running WILD ones descended from ones that have escaped over the years (although I WILL say the size of their thighs and drumsticks kinda look the size of the ones you get at that famous fried-chicken place run by an military officer from Kentucky, so I’m not sure they didn’t actually escape from a captive-breeding program).

They regularly DO cross the road. Why, we do not know. The only ones WE can catch-up with are, unfortunately, the less-successful ones. Dead chickens tell no tales…

Continue reading “I See Dead Things…”

Oh Baby, Baby, It’s A Wild World

Condo chickens

Wild and feral animals sighted on Molokai:

This is not a comprehensive list.  There are lots of bird species here, but they don’t let us get close enough to make a positive identification. Wildlife is also notoriously camera-shy, so I don’t have a lot of pictures to go with this posting.

Apapane (Hawaiian honeycreeper)- a small bright red bird, a hawaiian native species. I spotted this beauty flying from tree to tree at Purdy’s Macadamia Farm.

Geckos and Lizards (trog has written more about these). They hang out in the house and in the landscaping, they do a lot to help keep the bug population under control.

Front door gecko
Front door gecko

Turkeys- these we saw wandering freely through the grounds of a resort  on the west end of the island.  They are really big. I also saw a lone peacock there.

Chickens- they are everywhere. They live in the jungle and in the parks and schoolyards.   A small flock lives on the grounds of the condo. They  help keep the bugs down. And, yes, the roosters like to crow at any time of the day or night, because they are wild, and they run fast, so they can get away with it.

Axis Deer- A spotted Asian deer, these are descendants of the 7 deer that were  brought from Hong Kong as a gift to King Kamehameha V in the 1860’s. We saw these in the stretch of jungle that lines the highway between our condo and the nearest town. They were well hidden and we were only able to see them because we were walking less than three feet away from them.

Mongoose (descended from the 72 Asian mongooses imported from Jamaica in 1883 to help control the rat population). It is a weasel-like animal, slightly bigger than a squirrel. They tend to avoid humans, but  I have spotted them dashing across roads.

Yellow-billed  Cardinal- What is black and white and red all over? Actually this charming little bird has a white body, and dark gray (almost black) wings with a bright red head and can be seen throughout the island.

Crabs-  (Trog should write more about these, he has spent a lot of time observing them.). They live on the beach, try to avoid being observed by humans, and dig  dens in the sand.

Bufo Toads, or Cane Toads-  These large poisonous/ hallucinogenic toads were introduced by Hawaiian sugarcane growers to help control the beetle population.   At night we see them hopping around in the dark along the sides of the highway, by day we see their flattened carcasses  along the sides of the highway.

Zebra Doves- believed to be descended from a shipment of pet birds that were set loose in the 1800’s, these birds  make themselves at home around human habitation.  We’ve observed them  in town and wandering around the grounds of the condo.

Marbled Godwits- these are occasionally seen in the Hawaiian islands, but their usual habitat is in  northern mainland USA, and southern Canada.  We saw a small flock in the grassy field adjacent to Kaunakakai Elementary School. At first I thought they were large ducks or small geese until we got close enough to see the long narrow beaks.  These migratory birds are a close relative to the barred godwit, a  species that  set the record for the longest  recorded non-stop flight when researchers tracked one covering  over  6000 miles in 8 days without food, drink, or rest.

Cattle Egrets- also an introduced species also for purposes of insect control.  These graceful white birds favor the grassy  area around the education center  just east of Kaunakakai.

Charming as it is to see these exotic wild creatures,  one of the lessons that Hawaii has to teach the world is of the dangers of introducing non-native species. The native species of the Hawaiian islands are endangered, having been preyed upon or crowded out by the introduced species. Once a species is brought into a ecosystem, it is nearly impossible to eradicate it. While the people who brought these creatures were well-intentioned, things rarely turned out as envisioned.  The mongoose was meant to prey on rats, but rats are nocturnal and mongooses  are diurnal, so they ended up eating birds and eggs instead.  Axis deer were meant to provide food for the Hawaiian people, but since they have no non-human predators on the islands, their numbers grew to the point that they caused widespread habitat destruction and  huge losses to farmers and ranchers. It is a cautionary tale. It seems that when you add something new into an ecosystem, you risk changing everything.

 

Gecko – NOT GEICO

One of Hawaii’s more interesting and beloved – or disquieting and loathed – creatures is the gecko.  There are, by the way, EIGHT kinds of geckos in Hawaii, and all of them were introduced by humans (which are themselves an introduced species to the Hawaiian Island – and in all fairness, a couple of the gecko species likely came WITH the FIRST humans to introduce themselves to the Islands, the Polynesians, and those species are really as “native” as humans are here).

Common House Gecko - Insect Assassin! Yaay!
Common House Gecko – Insect Assassin! Yaay!

For those who love them, all members of the gecko family LOVE to eat bugs. Hawaii is also lousy with another introduced creature, the German cockroach (yeah, THAT German cockroach, the one that could survive without its head for a week, thought to be able to survive a nuclear holocaust, found in homes EVERYWHERE in the world)(as they were originally thought to have originated in Europe and apparently everyone wanted to blame the Germans and so gave that particular type its name, although research shows that they may have actually originated in Ethiopia – and the Germans themselves call that version of cockroach the “Russian cockroach” – but still, you know what disgusting vermin I’m talking about). Continue reading “Gecko – NOT GEICO”