Bird species endemic to northwestern Hawaiian Islands gets native name


The Nihoa Millerbird, an endangered terrestrial bird species living exclusively within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, recently received a Hawaiian name. Developed by the monument’s Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, the name reflects the bird’s Hawaiian cultural perspectives as well as its characteristics and behaviors.

“Developing new Hawaiian names for species in Papahanaumokuakea that have either lost or never had a Hawaiian name is an important step towards honoring Hawaiian traditions and maintaining a living culture here in our islands,” said Kekuewa Kikiloi, assistant professor at the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and chairman of the PMNM Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group.

Hawaiian names were given to the Nihoa Millerbird (ululu), as well as the new population of Nihoa Millerbirds established on Laysan Island (ululu niau).

“These new names help to connect these life forms to the genealogy of Hawaii. As best as possible, we try to ensure that these names are consistent with the Hawaiian world view and traditional ecological knowledge of our homeland,” Kikiloi said.

The name ululu — meaning “growing things” — was given to Nihoa Millerbird in hopes its population will continue to grow.

In 2011 and 2012, a small number of ululu were translocated to Laysan Island by the U.S. Fish &Wildlife Service, American Bird Conservancy and other partners to improve the long-term survival prospects for the species and fill a gap in Laysan’s ecosystem once filled by the now-extinct Laysan Millerbird. During transport, the 650 miles of ocean that separated the two islands were uncharacteristically calm, thus inspiring the name ululu niau — niau meaning “moving smoothly, swiftly, silently, and peacefully; flowing or sailing thus.”

“These names connect them back to the main islands and the Hawaiian language, raising awareness of their remote homes in the Northwestern Islands and tying them into the unique tapestry of Hawaiian biodiversity we are all striving to conserve,” said ABC Science Coordinator for Hawaii Chris Farmer.

 

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