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Manu Minute: The Many-Named ?Auku?u

The ?auku?u, 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.

Special thanks to Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for today's field recordings.

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

Unlike their continental cousins, Hawai?i ?auku?u are diurnal hunters.

?Auku?u 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 ?auku?u 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, ?auku?u are one of fifty-two flying creatures described in the third w? 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.

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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