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This smallish, plain-brown solitaire, though now likely extinct, was last found in the wet, montane forests of Molokai, Hawaiian Islands. Formerly, this species occurred on Lanai, where it disappeared by 1933, and on Maui, where it was described as abundant in the 1860s but never seen again. On Molokai there have been no confirmed sightings in the last 20 years. As with other Hawaiian endemic birds the spread of avian malaria by introduced mosquitoes has had a devastating impact on populations.
While all five species of Hawaiian Myadestes solitaires are virtually identical in appearance, their island-specific distribution makes identifying a given bird fairly easy in its natural habitat. Oloma'o is most similar to the Oma'o, which is endemic to the island of Hawaii and is gray on the belly where the Oloma'o is whitish. Shy and retiring, the Oloma'o stays close to or within low trees and underbrush where it is usually detected by its calls, a shrill "police whistle" or a sharp cat-like rasping note. Like other Hawaiian solitaires this species has the habit of perching upright and quivering its wings and tail nervously.
Consisting of two known subspecies (M. l. rutha and M. l. lanaiensis) found respectively on Molokai and Lanai, the Oloma'o was also found on Maui in the 1860s. This third population may have represented an unknown subspecies, or another population of one of the currently recognized subspecies, but it was never rediscovered. On the island of Molokai this species was described as ubiquitous in the late 1800s, but the population subsequently suffered serious declines and was considered extinct by the 1930s. Rediscovered in 1964 and again in 1975 and 1980, this race has gone undetected for the past 20 years. Remnant populations may remain in wet montane forests between Kamakou Peak and Pepe'opae Bog, or in the southernmost portion of Oloku'i Plateau. On the island of Lanai, the other subspecies was considered common until about 1923, but was last observed in 1933 and is now considered extinct.
Only three nests have ever been found, all on Molokai and all inactive at the time of discovery. No information exists on eggs or other aspects of breeding biology. This bird is largely restricted to montane rainforests densely packed with epiphytes, tree ferns, and underbrush. Here it remains mostly hidden in low places where it feeds on a variety of fruits, berries, flowers, and insects.
As with other endemic Hawaiian solitaires, habitat destruction, introduced predators, and diseases have been fingered as the leading causes for population decline and extinction. In the case of the Oloma'o, a growth in human population and cutting of forests for development seriously impacted the species' primary holdouts on Molokai and Lanai. The spread of avian malaria by introduced mosquitoes, predation by introduced mammals, competition from introduced birds, and habitat alteration by invasive weeds have all had deleterious impacts on this species.
The species was federally listed as Endangered in 1970. To date, the primary conservation effort on behalf of this species has been a series of surveys in search of remnant populations. Programs to control invasive mammals and weeds have resulted in habitat recovery in the Pu'u Ali'i Natural Area Reserve and The Nature Conservancy's Kamakou Forest Preserve that might be of help to this species if it still survives. The East Molokai Watershed Partnership, coordinated by The Nature Conservancy, is working to protect and enhance upland forest habitats that once harbored Oloma'o. If the species is rediscovered one possible course of action might be a captive propagation and release program along with protection of key habitats.
What Can You Do?
Join Hawaii Audubon Society. A chapter of National Audubon, the Hawaii Audubon Society works to protect and educate people about Hawaii's birds. For more information visit http://www.audubon.org/states/hi/
Although the Endangered Species Act may have been too late to prevent the extinction of the Oloma'o, it does protect and provide resources for many species. Audubon continues to work to ensure that this vital legislation is being used to protect our publicly-owned wildlife resources. Check out http://www.audubon.org/campaign/ to learn of the latest news about the Endangered Species Act and how you can help. To learn more about other species protected under this legislation, visit: http://endangered.fws.gov/
Support efforts to control feral animals and invasive plants and insects throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Support efforts to protect native forest habitat on Molokai by state and federal agencies and conservation organizations.
BirdLife International. 2000. Threatened Birds of the world. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge, UK.
BirdLife International (2006) Species factsheet: Myadestes lanaiensis, Olomao http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=6349&m=0
Clement, P. 2000. Thrushes. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in Jeopardy. Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
Pratt, H.D., P. L. Bruner, and D. G. Berrett. 1987. The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Wakelee, K. M., and S. G. Fancy. 1999. Oma'o (Myadestes obscurus), Oloma'o (Myadestes lanaiensis), Kama'o (Myadestes myadestinus), Amaui (Myadestes woahensis). In The Birds of North America, No. 460 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologist's Union, Washington, D.C.