Close this search box.

More on Hawaiian Birds from Kepelino, 1859. 

Cover Image: Masthead of Hoiliili Havaii published on February, 1859.

Aloha Nūhou Monday!

Here is more from Kepelino’s series of bird descriptions, “He Vahi Huli-toa Manu Havaii,” from Hoiliili Havaii. I mistakenly started with his description of the mamo last time, and failed to include his introduction. Therefore, today I will begin with Kepelino’s introduction on his bird series and follow with his entry on the Hawaiian duck. As before, the translation is from Mary Kawena Pukui as it appears in the HEN Notes.

Image: Z. Teauotalani, “Tahoa.” Hoiliili Havaii, February 1859, p. 9.


O Hawaiians, read this paper which I have written that you may know the native birds, their appearances, and what they do. Some are good birds and some are bad; some are delicious and some are not; some are good looking and some are ugly; some are large and some are so small as to be utterly worthless. The ʻiwa and the kone are the largest of Hawaiian birds, and the bat (ʻōpeʻapeʻa), the smallest. The ʻuaʻu is the most delicious of birds, and the bat is never eaten because it is despised by men. The moho is the most beautiful and cleanest of birds and the ʻiʻiwi maka pōlena comes next. These birds are used to compare to handsome and beautiful people. The bat is the ugliest of all.

We shall see about the birds with large feet, clean ones, delicious ones, fat ones, and bitter ones.1

(Hoiliili Havaii, 2/1859, p. 9)

1HEN Vol. 1, p. 1127.

Image: Z. Teauotalani, “VIII. Te Toloa.” Hoiliili Havaii, March 1859, p. 17.

VIII. The Koloa.

The koloa is large like a duck. Some are black, some are reddish-brown like reddish-brown chickens. The neck is not long, the beak is flat, the legs are not slim and long but are short like a short hen’s. Its feet are webbed. It lives on fresh water mosses, fishes in ponds, worms found in the mud along the banks, succulent weeds, and other things. The koloa is a wild bird and fears the approach of man. When one is sighted, they fly wherever they can. The koloa is a water loving bird and do not like dry places. It seeks ponds and other places where water is found. The cry of the koloa is a quack like a duck’s. The koloa is a very clever swimmer, it paddles nicely with its feet, keeps afloat on the water, and as it paddles it moves along on the surface of the water. Because it is a land dweller, it is numbered among the land birds. The koloa lays its eggs on the plains and the young begin to swim as soon as they are hatched. The parents lead the little ones to the water.2

(Hoiliili Havaii, 3/1859, p. 17)

2HEN Vol. 1, p. 1137.

Image: F. W. Frohawk, “Anas wyvilliana [koloa maoli]” published in Aves Hawaiienses: The Birds of the Sandwich Islands, by Scott B. Wilson, London, 1890–1899. Bishop Museum Archives. SP 216992.

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact 

This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our Newsletter

Nūhou Mondays

Introducing Nūhou Mondays

Member Spotlight

Paula Pua


Patience Namaka Wiggin