HAWAIIAN BIRD NAMES




Most species of Birds that occurred in Hawai'i were given names by the Ancient Hawaiians and some are still used today, with some modifications to reflect modern taxonomy. For example, 'amakihi is a traditional name but Kaua'i 'Amakihi is a modern construct. Below is a list of species with their English name (if they have one), Scientific name, Hawaiian name and in some cases what the Hawaiian name means. Most of these names were learned from native Hawaiian speakers by haole ornithologists during the 19th century, and some of them have been controversial for a variety of reasons. Munro reported the name Hoa for the Greater Koa-Finch, but other authors disputed the validity of that name and it was not widely adopted. Sometimes native speakers gave different names to the same bird, as in Apapane vs. Akakane. Wilson reported the name 'O'u-holowai for the bird we call the Akeke'e, but Perkins corrected it based on wider contact with Hawaiian informants. Victorian scholars cringed at the name 'Akohekohe because it is a slightly prurient pun. Although it is onomatopoetic, it is also a reference to the resemblance of the bird's crest to pubic hair. The Hawaiians apparently had a well-developed sense of humor. Some Hawaiian names had specific meanings ('Ula-'ai-hawane translates roughly as "red palm creeper"), some were imitative ('elepaio, probably 'I'iwi) and others were just the name of the bird (after all, what does "oriole" or "sparrow" mean in English?). Those names that derive from the birds call or song are marked with the following: *Call

ENGLISH NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME HAWAIIAN NAME MEANING OF HAWAIIAN NAME
       
LAYSAN ALBATROSS Diomedia immutabilis Moli Moli was the Hawaiian word for a bone tattoo needle, which was made from the bone of an Albatross.
BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS Diomedia nigripes Ka'upu  
HAWAIIAN PETREL Pterodroma sandwichensis Ua'u *Call
BAND-RUMPED STORM PETREL Oceanodroma castro 'Ake 'Ake *Call
WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER Puffinus pacificus 'Ua'u Kani *Call
NEWELL'S SHEARWATER Puffinus newelli 'A'o *Call
BULWER'S PETREL Bulweria bulwerii 'Ou *Call ?
RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD Phaethon rubricauda rothschildi Koa'e'ula  
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD Phaethon lepturus dorotheae Koa'e'kea  
MASKED BOOBY Sula dactylatra personata 'A *Call
RED-FOOTED BOOBY Sula sula rubripes 'A *Call
BROWN BOOBY Sula leucogaster plotus 'A *Call
GREAT FRIGATEDBIRD Fregata minor palmerstoni Iwa Thief
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli 'Auku'u or 'Auku'u-kahili Kahili is a fly-brush and refers to the white head plumes.
HAWAIIAN GOOSE Branta sandvicensis Nene *Call
HAWAIIAN DUCK Anas wyvilliana Koloa Maoli Native Duck.
NORTHERN PINTAIL Anas acuta Koloa Mapu 'Wind-blown' Duck. Also mapu means to rise or float as a cloud (ie. flocks).
NORTHERN SHOVELER Anas clypeata Koloa Moha 'Bright' or "shiny" Duck.
HAWAIIAN HAWK Buteo solitarius 'Io *Call
HAWAIIAN COOT Fulicia alai 'Alae Ke'oke'o White frontal shield.
HAWAIIAN COMMON MOORHEN Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis 'Alae 'Ula Red frontal shield.
HAWAIIAN BLACK-NECKED STILT Himantopus mexicanus knudseni Ae'o One standing Tall.
BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW Numenius tahitiensis Kioea Long legs. Also *Call
PACIFIC-GOLDEN PLOVER Pluvialis fulva Kolea  
RUDDY TURNSTONE Arenaria interpres 'Akekeke An ancient harplike instrument. Also*Call
SANDERLING Calidris alba Hunakai Sea Foam.
WANDERING TATTLER Heteroscelus incanus 'Ulili *Call
SOOTY TERN Sterna fuscata oahuensis 'Ewa'Ewa Call or make an uncomfortable noise refers to the noisy flocks this species forms. 
GRAY-BACKED TERN Sterna lunata Pakalakala Refers to the small fish the species eats. 
BROWN NODDY Anous stolidus pileatus Noio Koha Large Noio (gray forehaed), formed from kohala which means large. 
BLACK NODDY Anous minutus melanogenys Noio or Lae hina Gray forehead, hina means gray. 
WHITE TERN Gygis alba rothschildi Mau-o-ku  
HAWAIIAN SHORT-EARED OWL Asio flammeus sandwichensis Pueo Huddled or Crouched
RED JUNGLEFOWL Gallus gallus Moa Refers to the large flightless New Zealand birds (Maori derivation). 
HAWAIIAN CROW Corvus hawaiiensis 'Alala To cry, crow or caw. Also 'Ala means to rise and la means the sun and refers to the flocks of birds which would start calling noisily at dawn.
KAUA'I 'ELEPAIO Chasiempis sandwichensis sclateri 'Elepaio  *Call
O'AHU 'ELEPAIO Chasiempis sandwichensis gayi 'Elepaio  *Call
HAWAI'I 'ELEPAIO Chasiempis sandwichensis sandwichensis 'Elepaio  *Call
HAWAIIAN THRUSH Myadestes obscurus 'Oma'o Probably a corruption from 'Amaui (the name originally given to all the Hawaiian Thrushes) and is formed from the name Manu a Maui or "Island Thrush".  
SMALL KAUA'I THRUSH Myadestes palmeri Puaiohi  
  Psittirostra psittacea 'O'u Male = O'u po'o lapalapa - 'square-headed O'u'

Female = O'u lae o'o - 'mature-headed O'u' 
  Loxioides bailleui Palila Refers to the species gray upperparts. 
  Loxopus coccineus 'Akepa "Active", "nimble", "quick". 
KAUA'I 'AKEPA Loxopus caeruleirostris 'Akeke'e (or O'u holo wai) "Active", "nimble", "quick". 
LESSER 'AMAKIHI Hemignathus parvus 'Anianiau Nianiau means "straight". Name also means eating in small bites.
  Hemignathus virens virens 'Amakihi 'Amakihi means "curved" from the words kihi or kihikihi
  Hemignathus chloris 'Amakihi 'Amakihi means "curved" from the words kihi or kihikihi
  Hemignathus kauaiensis 'Amakihi 'Amakihi means "curved" from the words kihi or kihikihi 
 
Hemignathus lucidus
Nuku Pu'u 'Bill shaped like a hill' 
  Hemignathus munroi 'Akiapola'au  
KAUA'I CREEPER Oreomystis bairdi 'Akikiki *Call (probably)
HAWAI'I CREEPER Oreomystis mana    
O'AHU CREEPER Paroreomyza maculata 'Alauahio  
MAUI CREEPER Paroreomyza montana 'Alauahio  
MAUI PARROTBILL Pseudonestor xanthophrys    
  Himatione sanguinea 'Apapane  
  Vestiaria coccinea 'I'iwi (Eye twitching) *Call
CRESTED HONEYCREEPER Palmeria dolei 'Akohekohe Refers to the short crest feathers which were deemed reminiscent of pubic hair by the ancient Hawaiians.
PO'OULI Melamprosops phaeosoma Po'ouli Black masked or Dark-headed. The name was bestowed by Mary Pukui after the species discovery in the 1970s, who apparently
misunderstood the description of the bird. It is supposed to mean
"black face" but instead means "black head" which is not accurate.
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As well as the above species the following are extinct species (since 1800) which had Hawaiian names, those species without Hawaiian names, eg. Lana'i Hookbill (Dysmorodrepanis munroi) have not been included but can be found at the end of the Unofficial State List.

HAWAIIAN RAIL Porzana sandwichensis Moho "Bird that calls from the grass".
LARGE KAUA'I THRUSH Myadestes myadestinus Kama'o  
O'AHU THRUSH Myadestes oahuensis `Amaui Probably a corruption from the name originally given to all the Hawaiian Thrushes, and is formed from the name Manu a Maui or "Island Thrush".  
LANA'I THRUSH Myadestes lanaiensis lanaiensis Lana`i `Olomao  
MOLOKAI THRUSH Myadestes lanaiensis Oloma'o  
O'AHU O'O Moho apicalis 'O'o  
BISHOP'S O'O Moho bishopi 'O'o Named by Lord Rothschild after Mr. Charles Bishop who founded the Bishop Museum. 
HAWAI'I O'O Moho nobilis 'O'o  
KAUA'I O'O Moho braccatus Kaua'i 'O'o or 'O'o'a'a Dwarf O'o
  Chaetoptila angustipluma Kioea Long legs. 
LANA'I HOOKBILL Dysmorodrepanis munroi    
GREATER KOA FINCH Rhodacanthis palmeri Hopue  
LESSER KOA FINCH Rhodacanthis flaviceps    
KONA GROSBEAK Chloridops kona    
GREATER 'AMAKIHI Hemignathus sagittirostris    
GREATER 'AKIALOA Hemignathus ellisianus   Also 'Akihialoa. refers to a "long, curved bill". 
LESSER 'AKIALOA Hemignathus obscurus   Also 'Akihialoa. refers to a "long, curved bill". 
  Hemignathus lucidus lucidus O'ahu Nukupu'u Nuku means bill of a bird. Pu'u is a small round hill. Therefore Nukupu'u means bird with a bill shape shaped like a small round hill.
LANA'I CREEPER Paroreomyza montana montana Lana'i Alauahio  
MOLOKA'I CREEPER Paroreomyza flammea Kakawahie "To break up firewood" and refers to the species chipping call notes.
  Loxops coccineus wolstenholmei O'ahu 'Akepa "Active" 
  Ciridops anna `Ula - 'ai - hawane "Red bird that feeds on the hawane plant", or "red palm creeper". 
HAWAI' MAMO Drepanis pacifica Mamo Probably a corruption of Hoohoo ('O'o) and relates to calls. 
BLACK MAMO Drepanis funerea 'O'o nuku mu " 'O'o with the sucking beak" 
LAYSAN HONEYCREEPER Himatione sanguinea freethii    
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"Ulili E"

Hone ana ka leo e 'Uliili e

The voice of the Ulili is sweet

'Ekahi manu noho 'ae kai

A bird that stays by the water's edge

Kia'i ma ka lae a'o Kekaha

Guarding the point at Kekaha

'O ia kai ua lana malie

This gently flowing sea

(Traditional Hawaiian song - Anon)


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©Birding Hawaii 2001