Extinct Bird of the Sandwich Islands

Drepanis is the scientific name given by Temminck (Man. d'Om. ed. 2, i. p. lxxxvi.) to certain birds of the Sandwich Islands, originally referred to the genus Certhia, and subsequently regarded as belonging to the Family Meliphagidae (Honeysucker). Later in the 19th century these birds were ascertained by Doctor Hans Gadow to differ from the Meliphagidae by possessing a tongue of a very distinct structure, and to be probably more nearly allied to the Sugar Birds (Coerebidae or, as they were known at that time, Caerebidae) so that their recognition as being part of a separate Family, Drepanididae was justifiable.

The genus Drepanis, includes two species, the Hawaii Mamo (Drepanis pacifica) and the Black Mamo (Drepanis funerea). Both species are, according to all accounts, extinct. It is believed that the extinction of the Hawaii Mamo was as a result of the way in which it was destroyed for the sake of its rich yellow feathers, used in former days to decorate the state robes of the chiefs of the locations where it was found. Its native name seems to have been Mamo, which was thence applied to the gorgeous mantles beset with its golden feathers. As the species became rare, recourse was had for this purpose to the yellow feathers of a very different bird, the 0-o, belonging, as Doctor Gadow showed in the 19th century (when the O-o was known as Acrulocerus nobilis ), to the wholly-distinct Family Meliphagidae (Honey Sucker).

Specimens of the Hawaii Mamo were brought to England by the companions of Cook on his last voyage, when the Sandwich Islands were discovered, and one of them was kept in the Museum of Vienna, while other examples were taken to Honolulu, Paris, Leyden, and Cambridge; but probably not more than half a dozen have been preserved.

Picture of Iiwi beak
Picture of Iiwi beak

Closely allied to the Hawaii Mamo is the beautiful Scarlet Hawaiian Creeper, Vestiaria coccinea, also known as the Iiwi, which also provided feathers for the adornment of the tribal peoples, but has escaped the fate of its relative, being still one of the most characteristic birds of the islands and to the same Family belong several other genera, among which  Hemignathus, With its upper mandible in some species monstrously prolonged beyond the lower, is very remarkable (see Wilson and Evans, Birds of the Sandwich Islands).


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