Mammal Mondays: Da Free, Da Proud

Today, we depart from the standard Mammal Monday stories for a little something from the islands and a critter that is more feathered than furred. I’m aware chickens are not actually mammals, and I’ve been aware since Miss Geary taught us about classes of animals in first grade. Since my own mammals have been behaving themselves, and also since I need a segue into more Hawaii stories, welcome to “Mammal” Mondays–because warm-blooded is warm-blooded–red junglefowl edition.

The Electrician and I spent one day of our honeymoon on the stunning island of Kuaui, a quick (very) early morning flight from Oahu. While we expected breathtaking views, coffee orchards, and flowers a-plenty, we certainly didn’t anticipate the plethora of poultry awaiting us on the little island.

Behold, the majestic red junglefowl:

Look at him strut, with his adoring fan close behind.
Look at him strut, with his adoring fan close behind. 

In every nook and cranny of Kuaui, chickens squawk and peck, and roosters crow like the most egotistical of rock stars. We were surprised that the island is so overrun with chickens, particularly such beautiful ones. Yes the sign behind the handsome devil in the photo above says “grotto.” Given there was a bevy of females clamouring for his attention, I nicknamed that particular rooster Hef.

Rainbow Rooster
Rainbow Rooster

In the towns, at the touristy spots, on the golf courses, and plodding down the side of the roads, there are chickens in droves. Many of the birds travelled in their own little flocks, Papa, Mama, and a string of little babies. They’re quite fearless from human contact, despite being totally wild. I would have perhaps tried to pet one, if the males weren’t sporting giant and lethal looking spurs on their heels. Think pint-sized velociraptors.

What a sweet little nugget.
What a sweet little nugget.

Stories about the chickens’ origins vary. Most people, according to our tour guide, agree the red junglefowl are not native to Hawaii but were brought by early traders and missionaries to serve as a food source. I guess they, too, were disappointed with poi. Somewhere along the line, the chickens took over the island, aided by romances with domesticated chickens accidentally set loose by devastating hurricanes in the last few decades. There are no natural predators in Hawaii for birds this size, so their numbers grow and grow.

I got a kick out of the chickens all over Kauai, partly because they are such beautiful birds. Every rooster had slightly different markings and colourings, and the healthy ones were glossy and jewel-toned. If I had more time on Kauai, I could do a whole photo series titled, “Da Free, Da Proud,” which was emblazoned on t-shirts printed with the wild chickens we saw for sale in the gift shops. I wanted The Electrician to wear a red junglefowl t-shirt, but he said nobody would get the joke at home.

There you have it, an exotic, tropical (not quite) Mammal Monday. Stay tuned for next week, when chances are good there will be a new foster dog to meet in the dollhouse.

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