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Manu Minute: The broad-beaked Java sparrow

The Java sparrow gets its name not from its fiendish caffeine consumption (how else do you expect a bird to wake up early enough to get that dang worm?), but from its native habitat.

These broad-beaked passerine birds hail from a handful of islands in Indonesia, including Java. But don't rush off to book a plane ticket for a little international bird-watching. Due to extensive hunting and trapping, Java sparrows are rare in their native range.

Never fear, for Java sparrows are fairly common in Hawaiʻi. They were first introduced to Oʻahu in the 1960s. You may recognize them around your bird feeder, where they use their large beaks to crack open seeds.

Their penchant for seeds and grains means that Java sparrows can be significant agricultural pests. Whole flocks may descend on rice fields during harvest time, hence their nickname "Java rice bird."

Java sparrows may also spread invasive seeds in our native forests, though they prefer to populate urbanized areas.

AMTJ_Java sparrow Spectrogram video.mp4

Audio credit: LOHE Bioacoustics Lab at UH Hilo

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 a producer for The Conversation and Manu Minute. Contact her at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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