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Hawaiian Coot

Fulica alai / ‘Alae ke‘oke‘o
Coot and chicks

The ‘alae ke‘oke‘o is dark slate gray with a white bill and a large frontal shield (patch on top of head). The frontal shield is usually white but can vary from bluish white to yellow to dark blood red. They have white undertail feathers that are seen when swimming or during their courtship displays. Male and female ‘alae ke‘oke‘o look alike. This endemic bird of Hawai‘i is smaller than its mainland relatives, measuring 15 inches in length. Their calls include a variety of short, harsh croaks.

There are no records of how many ‘alae ke‘oke‘o were around before the 1950s. Research in the late 1950s and to the late 1960s indicated a population of only about 1,000. This led to it being listed as an endangered species in 1970.

A population of between 2,000 to 4,000 ‘alae ke‘oke‘o is distributed amongst 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.

Facts About Hawaiian Coot

Diet
Generalist feeders, eating seeds, aquatic leaves, invertebrates (crustaceans, snails), and tadpoles
Life Span
No information available
Size
Length: 38 cm (15 in); wingspan: 63 cm (25 in)
Page Photo Credits — © Dan Clark
Last Updated: Sep 03, 2013
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