Behind black bird-masks – by Mikael Vogel & Brian Williams

Brian Williams is an artist living in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and Mikael Vogel is a poet living in Berlin, Germany. They frequently collaborate on creative projects focusing on extinct and endangered animals, and will release an illustrated book of poetry in spring 2017.

This is their tribute to the extinct Hawaiian po’o-uli bird. 

Behind black bird-masks

The last three poʻo-uli
Within their three close home ranges (in ʻōhiʻa
Rain forest, on Maui), refusing to leave those, thus
Refusing to procreate in any way. Gone ex-
Tinct November 26, 2004


Hinter schwarzen Vogelmasken
Die drei letzten Poʻo-uli
In ihren drei nahen Revieren (in ʻŌhiʻa-
Regenwald, auf Maui), sich weigernd diese zu verlassen, so
Jede Fortzupflanzung verweigernd. Ausge-
Storben 26. November 2004


Poem by Mikael Vogel. Translated from German by Holden Silverfish


Some information on the po’o-uli

The po’o-uli was discovered in 1973 on the slopes of Haleakalā on the island of Maui. It was the first species of Hawaiian honeycreeper to be discovered since 1923. It was unlike other Hawaiian birds, belonging to an ancient lineage of Hawaiian honeycreepers. No other bird – living or fossil – has a structure similar to it.

By 1997, only three individuals were known to exist. In 2002, one of these, a female, was captured and taken to a male’s home range in an attempt to get them to breed. The female, however, had flown back to her own territory, which was 1.5 miles away, by the next day. There was also a ten-day expedition in 2004. The goal of this was to capture all three birds and bring them to a bird conservation centre on the island, in the hope they would produce offspring.

On September 9, 2004, one of the remaining birds, a male, was captured and taken to the Maui Bird Conservation Centre in Olinda, in an attempt to breed the bird in captivity. However, biologists could not find a mate for the male before it died on November 26, 2004.

The decline of the po’o-uli was due to habitat loss, mosquito-borne diseases, predation by pigsratscats, and small Asian mongooses, and a decline in the native tree snails that the po’o-uli relied on for food.


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