Birds on Mauna Kea

View of Mauna Kea from Pohakuloa, 2006. Mauna Kea is as beautiful as it is sacred, and in winter is often covered in snow. It erupted many times in prehistory, and is just one of the volcanoes on Hawaii Island. Lava flows of different ages spread out across the island, making unique habitats for plants, animals, and insects. In antiquity the lava fields on Hawaii Island were colonized by seabirds, who laid eggs inside of the numerous pits, crags, and bubbles in the lava fields. Hawaiians collected chicks and eggs during the nesting season, but it took the introduction of mongooses and rats to ultimately extirpate the colonies sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2006 I took a group of students into a lava tube cave to examine (not to collect) a bird ‘cooking stone’ that had been left inside the cave; the stone would have been heated in a fire and then placed inside a plucked and cleaned seabird, allowing the meat to cook on the inside.

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