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Manu Minute: The Many-Named ʻAukuʻu

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The ʻaukuʻu, also known as black-crowned night heron, is found throughout the world's wetlands. As their name implies, these birds have black "crowns" that run down their backs.

Juvenile night herons' plumage differs substantially from that of adults. They have brown feathers speckled with white.

Unlike their continental cousins, Hawaiʻi ʻaukuʻu are diurnal hunters.

ʻAukuʻu like a hardy meal. They are keen foragers and will hunt fish, insects, frogs, mice, and even young water bird chicks. Scientists have also observed ʻaukuʻu exhibit a clever form of "tool use"; if night herons are in busy areas where people feed ducks bread, they will often take pieces of bread and lure in the fish with the “bait.”

These medium-sized birds are the best known night heron species. Due to their wide distribution, they appear in the folklore and stories of many different cultures. For instance, ʻaukuʻu are one of fifty-two flying creatures described in the third wā of the Kumulipo. They are also featured in Konjaku Gazu Zoku Hyakki, one of the three volumes of the illustrated Japanese 18th century supernatural bestiary by Toriyama Sekien.

Manu Minute, Aukuu Spectrogram video.mp4

Audio credit: Peter Boesman/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML298494)

Patrick Hart is the host of HPR's Manu Minute. He runs the Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems (LOHE) Lab at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.
Ann Tanimoto-Johnson is the Lab Manager & Research Technician in the Hart Lab/Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems (LOHE) Bioacoustics Lab. She researches the ecology, bioacoustics, and conservation of our native Hawaiian forests, birds, and bats.
Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter. She is also the lead producer of HPR's "This Is Our Hawaiʻi" podcast. Contact her at sharrimanpote@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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