Birds of Hanalei
Hawaiian Coot / Fulica alai / ‘Alae ke‘oke‘o
There are no records of how many coots were in Hawai‘i before the 1950s. Research in the late 1950s and to the late 1960s indicated a population of only about 1,000. This led to the ‘alae ke‘oke‘o being listed as an endangered species in 1970.
Between 2,000 to 4,000, ‘alae ke‘oke‘o lived in all the main Hawaiian islands, except Kaho‘olawe. It is believed that the population fluctuates according to climatic and hydrological conditions. Ni‘ihau has the most ‘alae ke‘oke‘o during the winter because the lakes are usually flooded. On Kaua‘i, ‘alae ke‘oke‘o are usually found in lowland valleys. The primary cause of the decline of this Hawaiian native waterbird has been loss of wetland habitat. Other factors include introduced predators and alien plants, disease, hybridization, and environmental contaminants.
‘Alae ke‘oke‘o are found in fresh and brackish-water marshes and ponds. They rarely fly, but are capable of sustained flight close to the water.
The ‘alae ke‘oke‘o eats seeds and leaves of aquatic plants, insects, tadpoles, and small fish.
‘Alae ke‘oke‘o builds floating nests in aquatic vegetation, in which four to ten eggs are laid. Adults defend their nests vigorously. Chicks have black down, except on the head, neck and throat, where the down is reddish-orange. They are able to run and swim soon after hatching but maintain contact with parents by frequent calling.