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