Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Pueo makes an appearance at the Capitol
There have been recent reports of the pueo, or Hawaiian short-eared owl, hanging around the area between the state capitol and Iolani Palace.
The pueo, who are endemic to Hawaii, was spotted cruising around a kukui nut tree on the state capitol grounds and, on a different occasion, perched on the silver fire hydrant near the Kauikeaouli gate of Iolani Palace.
One of our guys in Sergeant of Arms tipped me off on the Pueo sightings. He was actually the one who saw the owl near the King Street gate, and thanks to him I was thoroughly educated on the important role the pueo plays in Hawaiian culture, myth, legend and folklore.
The appearance of a pueo as an 'aumakua, or ancestral guardian, is frequently viewed as an omen of something good or bad to happen. The most famous legend is of an Oahu man who robs a pueo nest, but returns the eggs after being confronted by the pueo right before cooking the eggs for dinner. Because of the man's kindness, the owl became his 'aumakua and asked the man to build a heiau (temple) in Manoa, offer a sacrifice and declare a day of kapu. When the king heard about these events, which broke the law, he was very angry and ordered his warriors to execute the man. As a guardian of battle, the man's pueo called upon all the pueo across Hawaii to join him in attacking the warriors in order to free the condemned man. When the king saw that his warriors didn't stand a chance against the powerful owls, he realized how strong they were and from that day on the pueo were worshipped as gods.
The pueo are endangered on Oahu and are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act. It is an extremely rare but wonderful occasion to see the pueo in downtown Honolulu. They usually prefer to fly at high altitudes over grassy areas. Representative from DLNR say that it will not be necessary to capture and relocate the pueo. They ask only that the public don't try to feed it, throw things at it, or touch it. The pueo is probably in search of food and will relocate when it is ready.