Editor's Note: Orginally printed with American Coot account, 2002.
The endemic coot of the Hawaiian Islands was long regarded as a subspecies of the American Coot (Fulica americana). Like all endemic Hawaiian wetland birds, the Hawaiian Coot is an Endangered Species, but it is by far the most numerous member of that sad assemblage. Because the Hawaiian Islands' now severely restricted wetland habitats are often found in proximity to beaches, golf courses, and other places frequented by residents and visitors, the Hawaiian Coot is a familiar sight in the islands, despite its status. As such, this species may be a good indicator of the health of Hawaiian Islands wetlands. The coot also plays a prominent role in Hawaiian folklore, being regarded as a deity with many worshippers, although native Hawaiians, who captured it by running it down or by pelting it with stones, considered it good eating ( Malo 1951 ).
Perhaps because it was “only” a subspecies, the Hawaiian Coot long received relatively little research attention compared to other Hawaiian birds that were considered endemic species. Much of the information on this coot was unpublished until recent summaries on breeding biology ( Byrd et al. 1985a ) and population trends ( Engilis and Pratt 1993 ). This account relies heavily on those summaries and concentrates on ways the Hawaiian bird differs from its North American mainland counterpart.