Looking for Mamo

MAMO 1.jpg

If you are looking for Mamo, sadly enough you are wasting your time. The Mamo, species Drepanis pacifica, was an Hawaiian songbird. The operative word being “was,” because the Mamo is no more. It was wiped out, gone… extinct. Its plumage was spectacular in color and sadly, beauty killed the beast or in this case, the bird.

The Mamo became extinct about 1898. It was about 8 inches long, black with touches of yellow, and a long decurved (curved downward) bill which was used for nectar-feeding. However, despite the fact that it was one of the first Hawaiian birds to come to the attention of Europeans, very little is known about it. Obviously the naturalist from James Cook’s third voyage to the islands knew they fed primarily from the flowers of arborescent lobelias, a genus of flowering plants comprising 415 species. It is also most probable that insects were a part of the Mamo’s diet. It was additionally known that the call of the Mamo was a single note long haunting and rather mournful note. Perhaps it always knew of its eventual demise and extinction.

This legendary songbird with its brilliant feathers was sought after by Hawaiian royalty to adorn and be made into the ceremonial cloaks they wore. Many festive birds with bright plumage including the Black Mamo and Bishop’s O`o were used in the creation of these capes. It is estimated that as many as 80,000 birds were necessary to create a single garment for Hawaiian royalty. However, as devastating as these numbers may seem these birds remained fairly numerous until the Americans destroyed their mountain-forest habitat.


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