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PUEO } Asio flammeus sandwichensis

RANGE: Hawaii

STATUS: The pueo is listed as Endangered on Oahu; NatureServe dubs this owl’s subspecies imperiled.

THREATS: Habitat loss, predation by introduced mammals, next destruction, light pollution, vehicle collisions, environmental contaminants, hunting

Also known as the Hawaiian short-eared owl, the pueo is found on all the Main Hawaiian Islands from sea level to 8,000 feet in a variety of habitats, from wet and dry forests to grasslands and even urban areas. Unlike most owls, pueo sleep at night and are active during the day, when they’re often seen hovering or soaring over open areas on the hunt for rodents and other small animals. Males perform arial displays known as “sky dancing” for prospective mates, though little is known about the bird’s breeding biology. Pueo appear to be somewhat resistant to the avian malaria that’s decimated many other native Hawaiian birds, but they’ve recently begun suffering from a mysterious ailment called “sick owl syndrome,” which has caused large numbers of pueo to walk dazedly onto roads, where they’re hit by cars. Scientists speculate that the syndrome might be caused by pesticide toxicity or seizure-like confusion due to light pollution.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, Forest and Karen Starr