He Kalakupua i ka Pō

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Photo: ʻAlalā
ʻAlalā are some of the most intelligent birds in the world and use tools, like carefully selected sticks, to solve complex food puzzles. – Photos: Ann Tanimoto Johnson

ʻAlalā (Corvus hawaiiensis), the Hawaiian crow, embodies immense cultural and biological significance in Hawaiʻi. Not only are ʻalalā revered as ʻaumakua, but to some they are also associated with mystical practices.

Their glossy black plumage and haunting calls have led to their association with the mysterious and enigmatic aspects of the night. The name also refers to a unique chanting style that resonates with a powerful and loud voice, reflecting the bird’s distinctive vocal abilities.

Photo: A pair of ʻalalā
A pair of ʻalalā co-sitting in an ʻōhiʻa tree.

Biologically, the ʻalalā is a critically endangered species with just under 120 individuals currently in human care. Habitat loss, invasive species, and disease have driven it to the brink of extinction. However, conservationists are working diligently to reverse this trend.

The much-anticipated 2024 release of a new cohort of ʻalalā on Maui represents a ray of hope for this remarkable species. By preserving native forests and addressing the various challenges they face, we can work toward ensuring the survival of both the bird, and its cultural legacy, for future generations.