ʻAlala

Hawaiian crow; Corvus hawaiiensis

ʻAlala

ʻAlalā; Corvus hawaiiensis

ʻAlalā are the sole surviving member of a remarkable group of five endemic corvid species once found on at least four of the Hawaiian Islands. ‘Alalā do not exist anywhere else on the planet and evolved with the plants, animals, and culture of Hawaiʻi. ʻAlalā were historically known to eat over 30 species of native fruits, making them an important seed disperser for native plants. An omnivore, ʻalalā also eat insects, and eggs and/or nestlings of other birds. Their diet can also include nectar, flowers, and dead animals.

‘Alalā are the largest and one of the most charismatic and culturally significant Hawaiian forest birds with black feathers and large bills. They weigh about 1 pound and are over 1.5 feet long from bill to tail with approximately a one-foot wide wingspan. Very intelligent and by far the loudest birds in the forest, they make incredible human-like cries, screams, and moans.

To learn about the conservation partnership, The ʻAlalā Project, working to restore Hawaiʻiʻs native crow to the wild click here.

Watch them in action

ʻAlalā are very intelligent birds. Within the conservation breeding program, the birds have been known to use tools to help them retrieve food items. Watch two ʻalalā use sticks to help gather food items from a log.

Watch on Youtube

Cultural Significance

ʻAlalā play crucial roles both ecologically and culturally within the Hawaiian landscape. Click here to learn more about the cultural role these birds play. 

He ʻalalā, he manu leo nui

The ʻōlelo noʻeau above translates to “The ʻAlalā, the bird with the big voice”. ʻAlalā have a wide variety of moans, cries, and cawing calls that they make. They are by far the loudest bird in the forest. By definition, their name ʻalalā speaks of their loud voice. It is defined as the cry of a child, the person who would be calling out commands for the chief during battle, or a style of chanting with a tremor to the voice and prolonged vowels. Click play below to hear some of the many calls that ʻAlalā make. 

More Information

Habitat and Behavior

ʻAlalā live as long as 18 years in the wild and up to 28 years in captivity, forming lifelong social bonds with each other. Pairs will typically mate for life producing 2-4 eggs per clutch. Immature birds remain with their parents for about 8 months. ʻAlalā are considered to be extinct in the wild. There is fossil evidence that either ʻAlalā or a similar subspecies were once found in Maui. ʻAlalā were historically documented being on Hawaiʻi Island utilizing ʻŌhiʻa dominated forests. They are an omnivorous species that has been known to consume over 30 species of native fruits and is an important seed disperser.

Past and Present

ʻAlalā are currently considered to be extinct in the wild. The wild population of ʻAlalā started to decrease, and by 2002 the last wild birds had disappeared. Currently, ʻAlalā can only be found within San Diego Zoo Wildlife Allianceʻs conservation breeding program, with facilities on Maui and Hawaiʻi Islands.
A conservation partnership, The ʻAlalā Project, formed and began reintroduction efforts in 2016 on Hawaiʻi Island.

Conservation Efforts

The last wild birds were seen in 2002 in the forests of South Kona on Hawaiʻi Island. Factors attributed to the species’ extinction include habitat loss, predation from introduced predators such as wild cats, rats, and mongooses, and avian diseases spread by introduced mosquitoes. A conservation partnership, The ʻAlalā Project, was formed and began reintroduction efforts on Hawaiʻi Island in 2016. With increased mortality these reintroduction efforts were paused and the birds were brought back to the conservation breeding centers. In 2021 Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project joined The ʻAlalā Project and together are in the early stages of planning releases of ʻAlalā within Maui Nui.

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