HAWAIIAN OWL (Asio flammeus sandvicensis)Pueo       Endemic
DESCRIPTION: The Hawaiian Owl (a subspecies of the Short-eared Owl) is an average size owl, measuring around 40 cm (16 in.) in length. The plumage is brown mottled with light beige and orange. The under parts are light beige to orange and finely streaked with brown. The eyes are orange-yellow. The facial disk is beige with a brown edge on the outer side of the eyes, sometimes forming a whole ring around the eyes. The legs are covered with beige to orange feathers. As with other birds of prey, females are larger. Sexes are similar.
VOICE: http://www.soundshawaiian.com/mp3/Pueo.mp3
NAME: The Hawaiian owl is a subspecies of the Short-eared owl. As its English name implies, the short-eared owl has small tufts that are usually difficult to see, unless the bird is in defensive mode. The name ‘Owl’ is an onomatopoeia for the bird’s call and comes from Cockney. The genus Latin name ‘Asio’ means a short-eared owl, and the species name ‘flammeus’ means ‘flame’, in reference to the plumage color and pattern.
HABITAT: The Hawaiian inhabits open country such as scrubland, fields and even urban areas like parks.
DIET: This owl species hunts for small rodents, its favorite prey. It hunts during the day, which makes it easier to observe than nocturnal species. When hunting it flies low, hovering above the ground. It will also prey on insects and small birds.
NESTING: The nest is a scrape on the ground and is lined with down. About 3-5 white eggs are laid. Females do all the nesting and brooding work, while males feed them and protect the nest.
DISTRIBUTION: The short-eared owl is found in most of the northern Hemisphere, Argentine and Chile, and Southeast Asia. It also nests on oceanic islands such as Hawaii, where it is called the Hawaiian Owl. It is partially migratory.
CONSERVATION: The Hawaiian owl is threatened by loss of habitat and predation by introduced feral mammals. It is listed as endangered on Oahu. Another issue is ‘sick owl syndrome’, possibly related to their main diet prey, rodents. The latter may contain rodenticides that then poison the owls.
In addition, Hawaiian owls are being killed by vehicles because of light pollution. When they fly down near the ground to hunt for prey, they get blindsided by the vehicle headlights.
On the other hand, Hawaiian owls have benefited from the introduction of game birds, notably on the Big Island.
NOTES: It is thought that the Hawaiian owl settled on Hawaii not long after the first Polynesian settlers.
As we were driving along Saddle Road to Waimea on the Big Island, we saw a Hawaiian owl fly down from an electrical wire to our right, pass right in front of our vehicle to land in the field on our left. As per the reference below, Saddle road is a good spot to observe this bird.
REFERENCES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pueo
Hawaiian Owl – Hawaii DLNR – Oct. 2005

Hawaiian Owl-Pueo - Kahana Beach, Maui - Jan. 12, 2009 - photo by Forest and Kim Starr
Hawaiian Owl-Pueo – Kahana Beach, Maui – Jan. 12, 2009 – photo by Forest and Kim Starr