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Manu Minute: 'Ōma'o, The Sly Thrush

Ann Tanimoto-Johnson

The 'ōma'o is one of two remaining thrush species in the Hawaiian Islands. The other is the puaiohi, a critically endangered species found only on Kaua'i.

'Ōma'o enjoy a diet of fruits and berries, as well as the occasional arthropod. They play a critical role in the seed dispersal of native plants, such as the 'ōhelo 'ai and 'ōlapa.

Credit Ann Tanimoto-Johnson
'Ōma'o eating an 'ōhelo berry.

Scientists estimate that there are as many as 170,000 'ōma'o on the southern and eastern slopes of Hawai'i Island, but don't expect to see one right away.

These stealthy birds know how to hide — they use their grey and brown plumage to blend in with the branches of the forest canopy.

Though not as showy as some of their fellow Big Island birds, like the
ʻakiapōlāʻau or the palila, the endemic 'ōma'o has one of the loudest and most recognizable songs of any native forest bird.

Read about and hear other Hawaiian birds on our Manu Minute page.

Patrick Hart interests in the ecology and conservation of Hawaiian forests and forest birds stem from years of living in a primitive field camp as a graduate student in the 1990’s at Hakalau Forest National wildlife refuge.
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 rejoined The Conversation in 2021 after interning for Hawaiʻi Public Radio in the summers of 2018 and 2019. She also produces HPR's podcast Manu Minute in collaboration with The University of Hawaii at Hilo. She was born and raised on the Big Island, and she collects public radio mugs.
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