Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000 21:49:03 -1000 From: Markeshort@cs.com (Mark Short) Subject: Bird of Prey in Maunawili
Near the junction of the Maunawili Connector trail and the Demo trail a little after dark, I heard the loud hawk-like screech of a large bird echo off the walls of the surrounding cliffs. I heard the cry again closer this time, and then was startled as the large bird flew past me not more than 8 feet away. It landed on top of a dead tree about twenty yards away. And I could see it's silhouette against the night sky. It then took off and flew in a large circle buzzing by me then reversing the direction of it's circle. At one point I stepped behind a tree for protection, just in case, since it was flying right at me. I would guess it was about a foot and a half long with fairly wide wings. Because it was dark I could not see any colors. Anybody know what kind of bird this might have been?
I just called Bob Pyle, an expert on Hawaiian birds, and he said that the bird Mark saw was almost certainly a barn owl. They are fairly common (there used to be basrn owls in the barn at the Honolulu zoo--20 yrs ago, when my kids were yojng), they do screech, and they fly at night.
Perigrine falcons do show up in Hawaii almost every winter--usually just one or two. Some years ago I was doing the Audubon Xmas bird count with Frank Howarth on Aiea Ridghe, and we saw a bird of prey fly very fast down the valley to our left, then stop and perch on a dead snag. Frank had seen Peregrines on the mainland, and he recognized it immediately. Godd thing he was there; I woundn't have had a clue. Fortunately for our credibility, it was seen subsequently around coastal areas. Peregriknes hunt ducks, but strictly in the day time. So a daytime bird of prey could be a peregrine, or even an osprey.
I think the pueo hunts by day, and doesn't screech.
Oh yeah, during the Makapuu hike this Jan., at the whale look-out at the top (Not the drive-by lookout), we saw a huge bird flapping its wing. At first I thought it's a warplane (it's black, definitely not United Airline), and then I realized it was flapping its wings. Hikers tend to exaggerate, but its wingspan may have been 5-10 feet ....
We've twice seen owls here, and since we saw them in the daytime we assumed they were pueo. Once was on the Waimano Ridge Trail about two miles in and the other time was up on Manoa Middle Ridge about halfway up, and both were silently flying away from us.
We've were also awakened once in Waimalu Valley by a horrendous screeching, which we assumed was an owl, probably a barn owl. The next day, we also found owl pellets on the ground, i.e., cylinders of hair and bones--rodent leftovers--excreted by owls. Those pellets were old, of course, not necessarily left by our night visitor, but they showed that owls were in the area and strengthened our hypothesis that the screech in the night was an owl.
Recently we saw a large bird flying overhead at about 10:30 pm up on the summit of the Northern Koolaus. There was enough moonlight for the bird to be visible. It could have easily been an owl.
And speaking of screeching: A couple of weeks ago we heard a dog barking and a pig squealing bloody murder down in Waialae Nui Gulch. The sound really carried, because we were on the adjacent ridgetop. No big deal, except it went on and on for about half an hour, no exaggeration. The pig sounded eerily like a child. There were no gunshots, nor other dogs chiming in, and the sounds finally died out, no pun intended. It might have been a stray dog vs. a pig, I guess. We heard a similar thing once in Mo'ole, up around the second falls, where I've never seen hunters.