The endemic solitaire, 'Oma'o (Myadestes obscurus), is common in windward forests of Hawai'i Island, but has been historically extirpated from leeward forests. The last detections of Oma'o on the leeward side of the island were in woodland habitat on the western flank of Mauna Loa in 1978. 'Oma'o were detected in woodland habitat in relatively low densities during a 2010 forest bird survey of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. The source of the population is unknown. It is probable they originated from a documented but unsurveyed population of Oma'o in scrub alpine lava. Alternatively, the birds may have persisted undetected for nearly 35 years, or expanded from windward mesic forests on southeast Mauna Loa. There is no evidence 'Oma'o recolonized the wet mesic forests of leeward Mauna Loa. The 'Oma'o can occupy diverse native habitats compared to other species in the Hawai'i Myadestes genus, of which most species are now extinct. The connectivity of each population is not understood but we assume there are significant geographic, physiological, and behavioral barriers for scrub alpine and wet mesic forest populations. The expansion of 'Oma'o to leeward woodlands is encouraging as the species is Hawai'i Island's last native frugivore capable of dispersing small and medium sized seeds of rare angiosperms, and could have an important role in re-establishing ecosystem function.
Additional Publication Details
Reoccurrence of 'Öma'o in leeward woodland habitat and their distribution in alpine habitat on Hawai'i Island