This member of the corvid family is nearly extinct.
It is the Hawaiian crow, or ‘alala. Like all corvids (ravens, crows, magpies, rooks etc) it’s intelligent. This one’s using a stick to extract something tasty from a hole in a branch.
When I did talks for wildlife rehabbers, one of the images I used was a dreamcatcher. The web is made from a single strand of string. Cut it in one place, and the whole thing unravels.
Losing the ‘alala would be like cutting the string. She disperses seeds from various plants, keeping the ecosystem healthy. Some seeds need to pass through a digestive system to germinate.
Cats (and a disease they carry that we call “cat scratch fever”), dogs and mongooses threaten them. Unlike our eastern crows, they don’t adapt well to human presence. Other introduced birds brought diseases as well. Remember, on an island, you are isolated. You are not immune to the odd new arrival. Same thing happened to the Native people too.
Corvids in cultures around the world are often seen as mythic figures, parts of legends, or carriers of the sun moon and stars. The first Hawaiians see them as ‘aumakua, a god or spirit of the ancestors.
In Hawaiian mythology, an ʻaumakua (/aʊˈmɑːkuːə/; often spelled aumakua) is a family god, often a deified ancestor. The Hawaiian plural of ʻaumakua is nā ʻaumākua ([naːˈʔɐumaːˈkuwə]), although in English the plural is usually ʻaumakuas. Nā ʻaumākua frequently manifested as animals such as sharks or owls.
Today, ‘alala are protected, raised in captivity, and released in a few highly protected areas.
Today’s random excursion on the web was brought to me by the Hawaiian wa’a kaulua Hokule’a. Her present worldwide voyage (presently she’s on the east coast heading for FL) is Malama Honua, (caring together for island earth). Signing up for her educators’ newsletter gets you some interesting stuff.