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.
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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]
Today, both the flora and fauna of Hawaii compete for survival with invasive plants, such as the sandbur, and non-native birds like the Japanese White-eye. Given a chance – and a boost from American Bird Conservancy and others – native species can rebound. Learn more at BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein. [Phrase of slack-key music]
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
“Makala Pua” by The Polynesians, from Beautiful Blue Hawaii, Flair Records: 2006.
Primary source: Culliney, John L. Islands in a Far Sea: Nature and Man in Hawaii. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1988.