A RARE BIRD: The ‘Alala is the most endangered and rare corvid species on Earth due to habitat loss and fragmentation from logging, predation by introduced mammals such as rats, cats, mongooses, and dogs, introduced avian diseases, and inbreeding depression. Their natural predators are ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawks). When fruit and coffee farmers started shooting ‘Alala in the 1890’s, their populations were already declining. By 1978, just 50 – 150 individuals were left. The sole remaining corvud in the Hawaiian Islands, ‘Alala is a medium sized crow (18 - 20”) with nearly black plumage, a heavy bill, and brown eyes. Through subfossil remains, researchers know there were at least 5 corvud species in Hawai’i, including a large species on Oahu with a curved bill, one with a slender bill on Oahu and Molokai, and another with a hammer head bill. By the 1800’s only one remained, the much smaller ‘Alala. Shown in the painting with Olapa fruit clusters, ‘Alala are opportunistic omnivorous foragers, eating native plants and shrubs, arthropods, mice, and the nestlings of small birds in the forest undergrowth.
They are known for their high level of intelligence and loud musical vocalizations, which are more varied than most any crows. They have amazing communication skills, and are adept at problem solving, tool choice, adaptation, and use. Their straight bill and large forward-looking eyes with sharp close up perception may have evolved to use tools.