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Manu Minute: ʻAlawi, the Hawaiʻi creeper

Ann Tanimoto-Johnson Alawi, AMT_ED2A9391.jpg alawi is a small Hawaiian honeycreeper
Ann Tanimoto-Johnson
/
HPR
The ʻalawi is a small Hawaiian honeycreeper. Adults are about the length of popsicle sticks and have olive-green plumage. Due to their similar size and color, ʻalawi are confused with ʻamakihi. Pro-tip: ʻAlawi have a more pronounced black eye mask.

At first glance, it's easy to mistake an ʻalawi for an ʻamakihi. But these little birds have songs that are entirely their own. Found only on Hawaiʻi Island, these honeycreepers live in high elevation native ʻōhiʻa and koa forests.

They are also known as the Hawaiʻi creeper because they forage by “creeping” up and down branches and tree trunks, using their bills to fleck off bark in search of food.

And they're team players! ʻAlawi often share arboreal real estate with bright orange Hawaiʻi ʻākepa. Both insectivores, an ʻalawi will hunt for insects along the trunk, while an ʻākepa looks among the leaves.

But the true show of sportsmanship comes during fledgling season. A chick's noisy begging can make it an easy target for predators, namely the ʻio. But ʻalawi avoid danger through big honeycreeper family reunions.

Large mixed-species flocks of ʻalawi, ʻākepa, ʻamakihi, and ʻakiapōlāʻau will gather with their fledgings, adopting a strength-in-numbers approach in order to their young.

This crew of honeycreepers makes quite the sight as they slowly move among the trees, singing all the while.

AMTJ_Alawi (Hawaii creeper) Spectrogram video.mp4

Audio credit:  LOHE Bioacustics Lab at UH Hilo and Xeno Canto XC147004- Brooks Rownd (Begging calls)

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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