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Belonging on an IslandBirds, Extinction, and Evolution in Hawai'i$
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Daniel Lewis

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300229646

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300229646.001.0001

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Sitting Ducks

Sitting Ducks

Extinction, Humans, and Birds in the pre-European Contact Era

(p.9) One Sitting Ducks
Belonging on an Island

Daniel Lewis

Yale University Press

This chapter concerns a bird known only from the fossil record—Ptaiochen pau, or the Stumbling Moa-nalo. Rapidly eradicated by early Polynesians, this flightless duck is an exemplar of environmental difficulties caused by the sudden arrival of humans on an unpeopled archipelago. It is a bird whose extinction seems resolutely tied to humans, but the fact that birds disappeared at nearly three times the rate before Western contact than after it also conceals many other things about careful and sophisticated native stewardship of the land. As such, the chapter asks what kinds of care the Hawaiians exercised over the land, and over its bird life, before they were affected by Western incursions in the form of diseases, introduced species such as mosquitoes and mongooses, and a wide variety of birds from elsewhere.

Keywords:   Ptaiochen pau, Stumbling Moa-nalo, early Polynesians, fossils, pre-European contact, humans, Western contact, native stewardship

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