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Endangered Nihoa Millerbird given Hawaiian name

May 23, 2014 - 8:43am

The Nihoa Millerbird, an endangered terrestrial bird species living exclusively within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, has been given a Hawaiian name. Developed by the monument’s Native Hawaiian Cultural Working Group, the name reflects Hawaiian cultural perspectives of this bird, as well as its characteristics and behaviors.

“Developing new Hawaiian names for species in Papahanaumokuakea that have either lost or never had a Hawaiian name is an important step toward honoring Hawaiian traditions and maintaining a living culture here in our islands,” said Kekuewa Kikiloi, assistant professor at Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii and the working group’s chairman. “As best as possible, we try to ensure that these names are consistent with the Hawaiian worldview and traditional ecological knowledge of our homeland.”

Hawaiian names were given to the Nihoa Millerbird, or ululu, as well as the new population of Nihoa Millerbirds established on Laysan Island, or ululu niau. The name ululu, meaning “growing things,” was given to the endemic and endangered Nihoa Millerbird with the hope that its population will continue to grow in the coming years.

In 2011 and 2012, a small number of ululu were translocated to Laysan Island by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, American Bird Conservancy and other partners to improve the long-term survival prospects for the species and to fill a gap in Laysan’s ecosystem that was once filled by the now-extinct Laysan Millerbird. During transport, the 650 miles of ocean that separated the two islands were uncharacteristically calm, thus inspiring the name ululu niau. Niau means “moving smoothly, swiftly, silently, and peacefully; flowing or sailing thus.”

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