Because the islands are more than 2000 miles from North America or Asia there are some amazing birds in Hawaii. It has been said that the absence of predators and minimal competition allowed them to evolve in peace. It has been estimated that there were at one time are least seventy kinds of birds that were unique to Hawaii. Of these some forty percent are already lost to extinction and some thirty percent more that are considered endangered.
Hawaiian Birds: `Io
`Io (Buteo soliarius) is sometimes referred to as the Hawaiian Hawk.
In the Kona region of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, the bulk of Mauna Loa blocks the prevailing trade winds leaving the air quite calm. The daily cycle of gentle convectional breezes moves up and down the gentle slopes, bringing the warm, humid climate. The Hawaiian saying “kaha ka ‘io i ka malie” translates as “the hawk stands out in the calm skies,” and is used to express admiration for a person who stands out in a crowd because of his or her appearance or charisma.
This graceful bird of prey measures 16 to 18 inches in length, the female being larger. Two color phases exist: a dark phase (dark brown head, breast, and underwings), and a light color phase (dark head, light breast and light underwings). Feet and legs are yellowish in adults and greenish in juveniles.
February through August is their breeding season, with pairs having their own schedule that may be dependent on locality. Nests are constructed of twigs and lined with leafy material. Eggs are similar in size and shaped to a chicken egg, light blue in color and either speckled or streaked with brown or reddish brown. The clutch size is normally one egg, and should the egg be lost within a few days of laying, a second clutch is laid within three weeks. Pair bonding appears to be permanent, and a pair uses the same nesting site in succeeding years.
The `Io usually hunts from a stationary position, but can also dive on prey from the air. It feeds on rodents, insects, small birds, and some game birds. They are opportunistic predators and are versatile in their feeding habits. They have a shrill and high-pitched call much like their Hawaiian name: “eeeh-oh.” They are known to be very noisy during the breading season. `Io are strong fliers.
In the forests of Kapu‘a in South Kona, ‘io still build their nests in strong ‘öhi‘a trees, calling out their persistence for all to hear. They have a shrill high-pitched call like their Hawaiian name: “eeeh-oh.” They are noisy during the breeding season. ‘Io are very strong fliers.