Kīkaha ka ʻUaʻu


Of all the seabirds common to Hawaiʻi, few have received as much notoriety as ʻuaʻu or Hawaiian Petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis).

These fast-flying, endangered petrels live much of their lives far at sea and inconspicuously return to land, typically at night, throughout the breeding season. Once an epicurean staple, ʻuaʻu nestlings were harvested for aliʻi from wild burrows and artificial pāhoehoe nesting pits.

Archaeological findings of thousands of pāhoehoe pits on Hawaiʻi Island suggest that Kānaka Maoli not only hunted ʻuaʻu but likely raised them through a sophisticated form of avian agriculture. A compelling feature of many of these pits is the presence of non-Hawaiian pumice rock. Experts believe that ʻuaʻu may have mistakenly eaten floating pumice at sea and later regurgitated the indigestible material. ʻUaʻu feed on squid and fish and digest the meal into a calorically rich stomach oil that is critical for meeting the nutritional needs of their young.