Kiwikiu in Hawaiian Culture

Written by Ashlyn Ku‘uleialoha Weaver 

The Kiwikui received its unique name for its abruptly curved beak, its whistle, and the weather on the mountain where it lives. However, the Kiwikui wasn’t always known by this name, the original was either lost or never known to the ancient Hawaiians. In the year 2010, the Hawaiian Lexicon Committee gave the Kiwikiu it’s new Hawaiian name and it was inaugurated with a heartfelt chant under the direction of Kumu Sam Ohu Gon III. Today, Hawaiian culture celebrates the uniqueness of this lively green bird.

From the lofty summit of Hāna Mountain

The high, dark forest flank is visible

However, it is obscured by the strata of clouds

The upper windward flank of countless birds is hidden

The echo of many bird voices, comes up from below

And the Ko‘olau district is brimming with birds

But harken now to this that strikes the ear

The clear call is carried by the kiu mountain wind

The call of the understory shrubs it is heard,

By the birds of the wet forest so

By the ‘I‘iwi that is dampened by the rain

By the ʻĀkohekohe grumbling in the forest

By the yellow Nukupu’u with its curved bill

Oh Kiwikiu

Oh Kiwikiu

You’re such and outstanding bird and blessed with beauty

Oh Kiwikiu

Oh Kiwikiu

Your stout curved bill is always snapping

Approach and occupy your perch

Here is a thriving bird

And may you thrive indeed

-Sam Ohu Gon III

About the author: Ashlyn is a Hawaiian Studies graduate from the University of Hawai'i-Maui College. She is currently studying Education and Ethnic Studies at the University of California-Sacramento. While pursuing her degree, Ashlyn volunteers her time researching Hawaiian cultural practices and stories for conservation in Hawaii. Her overall goal is to teach the next generation what Hawaiian history consists of, why our environment and ecosystems are amazing, and why our culture is beautiful.