Wattled Honeyeater (Iao)
The iao or Wattled Honeyeater (Foulehaio carunculata) is the commonest forest bird in Samoa. It is also found in Tonga and Fiji. Although not a particularly beautiful bird, with its greenish-brown feathers and yellow flaps of bare skin on the face, its boundless energy and continuous song enliven our islands. Its bold and fearless nature keeps it busy chasing other birds, and its loud alarm calls warn other animals of the lulu (Barn Owl) or other danger. Samoan legend tells that when the iao calls at night, it means that ghosts (aitu) are near.
The iao feeds at almost all the flowers of the forest, from small ‘atone (nutmeg) flowers to the large crimson blooms of gatae (coral tree). Christmastime is the best time of year for iao, because the asi trees are in full bloom. These white brushy flowers cover the tree crowns and are rich with nectar. At that time, the iao get so full of this nectar that they’re like kids full of candy and cake at a party — they rush every which way through the forest, chasing each other and yelling out songs at the top of their lungs. At other times when flowers aren’t quite so abundant, they eat a lot of insects as well, and also include some soft fruits and berries in their diet.
Even though the iao is our commonest bird, we really don’t know very much about its habits. Their nests are beautifully woven cups of grass, typically well-hidden in the dense foliage of a tree. Usually only one or two eggs are laid. Most nesting appears to take place between September and December.