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Three-quarters of Hawaii's native flowering plants probably came from seeds that hitched rides with birds. Sticky or barbed seeds adhere to the feathers. Other seeds travel in mud caked on a bird's feet. And still others cross the ocean in the stomachs of birds. The most likely seed-carriers were strong fliers. Or perhaps the seeds hitched a ride on the ancestors of this Akiapola'au, blown from Asia to the islands. Today, both the flora and fauna of Hawaii compete for survival with invasive plants.
The Birds and Plants of Hawaii
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[A volcano erupting]
Massive volcanic eruptions brought forth the Hawaiian Islands from deep beneath the sea. [A volcano erupting]
How did these remote islands of lava rock grow lushly green with plant life? [Waves] Birds played a vital role. Birds like the Pacific Golden-Plover we’re hearing now. [Pacific Golden-Plover calls]
Three-quarters of Hawaii’s native flowering plants probably came from seeds that hitched rides with birds. [Pacific Golden-Plover calls]
Plant seeds travel with birds in several ways. Sticky or barbed seeds adhere to the feathers — much like the seeds stuck in your socks after a walk in a weedy field. Other seeds travel in mud caked on a bird’s feet. And still others cross the ocean in the stomachs of birds. [Pacific Golden-Plover calls]
The bird-borne seeds that sprouted in Hawaii evolved into more than a thousand new species. The most likely seed-carriers were strong fliers like plovers or tropicbirds, which travel thousands of miles across the Pacific. [Red-tailed Tropicbird sounds] Or perhaps the seeds hitched a ride on the ancestors of this Akiapola’au we’re hearing — caught in a storm and blown to the Hawaiian Islands. [Akiapola’au calls]
Learn more at BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein.
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Pacific Golden-Plover recorded by W. Ward. Red-tailed Tropicbirds recorded by C. Robbins.
Akiapola’au calls from honeycreeper-01
Assorted ambient recordings by Kessler Productions.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org November 2013/2017/2019 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# 111307plants2HIKPLU SotB-hawaii-04-2011-11-20
Primary source: Culliney, John L. Islands in a Far Sea: Nature and Man in Hawaii. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988.