‘Ae ‘o ~ Hawaiian Stilt
(Himantopus mexicanus knudseni)
This slender, endemic wading bird stands 16 inches tall. Their black back is glossy in males and brown-tinged in females. Juveniles have a brownish back with white patches on their cheeks.
The Ae’o flies with its long pink legs stretched out straight behind. At Ka’elepulu Wetland, they are often seen in small groups feeding on water insects, worms, crabs, small fish and the seeds and roots of waterplants.
Listen for its soft muted call when resting and its loud, sharp “kip-kip-kip” in flight or when disturbed on the ground.
The Hawaiian Stilt nests in shallow depressions lined with stone and twigs. Adults will use the “broken wing act” to lure intruders away from their nests.
The Ae’o is an endangered species. Up until 1941 it was hunted for sport, now it numbers around 1,500. Like all of Hawaii’s endangered waterbirds, a major cause of its decline has been habitat destruction due to drainage of marshes and wetlands.