Birdsong is an animated short by CalArts animation student Michelle Cheng. The evocative conservation story was inspired by the experiences of the late field biologist John Sincock, specifically his last encounter with Hawaii’s now-extinct Kaua’i ‘ō’ō (Moho braccatus).
While studying the Kaua’i ‘ō’ō on the island of Kauai in the 1970s, Sincock documented “every detail of the endangered species’ feeding, flight, and call activities,” including mating calls, in which the male Kaua’i ‘ō’ō would call out and wait for a response from a female.
Sincock wrote in a 1974 letter, via The Huntington:
“Frequently they land on the upper dead branches of Ohia trees, sit side by side, and give their melodious call. Calling starts at just about 6 AM and ends at about 7 PM; often calling slacks off from 11 to 3. They are far more active during the brief periods of 5 to 10 minutes of sunshine, and during the frequent periods of cloud cover and rain they are quiet and difficult to locate.”
Sincock and his 1975 and ’76 field research partners, biologist Mike Scott and National Wildlife Refuge manager C. Fred Zeillemaker, also captured photos and audio recordings of the dwindling species. Via the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Scott said:
“The melodic song was almost magical and captured my total attention. Bird of a lifetime!”
Listen to the extinct bird’s call, recorded by Robert J. Shallenberger, in the Macaulay Library audio below. The caption candidly explains:
“The haunting song of the Kaua‘i ‘Ō‘ō will never be heard in the wild again… it has not been detected since 1987, and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists it as extinct.
Habitat destruction and invasive species were the likely causes of the species’ decline and loss.”
Watch these handpicked videos next on TKSST:
• The Elephant Bird Egg and rare footage of young David Attenborough
• The Kakapo: The world’s only flightless parrot is a very rare bird
• An Eagle’s Feather, an animation about the mighty Philippine Eagle
• Trying To Save The Red Crowned Cranes Of Japan
• The Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s Birds of Paradise project