Samoa’s Cardinal Honeyeater (Segasegamau’u)
The segasegamau’u or Cardinal Honeyeater (Myzomela cardinalis) is the prettiest bird of Samoa’s gardens. Unlike most Samoan birds, the male and female Cardinal Honeyeater look very different: the male is bright red, with black wings and tail, while the female is a dull gray, with a little bit of red on the rump. These tiny birds (the smallest in American Samoa) always seem to be active, flitting among the ‘aute (ornamental hibiscus), teuila (ginger), and nonu (Indian mulberry) in our gardens, or sampling nectar at flowers high in the forest treetops. The segasegamau’u is very vocal, though not as loud as its larger cousin- Wattled Honeyeater (iao). Its sweet warbling songs are familiar sounds in our villages and plantations.
The segasegamau’u is even more of a honey-bird than the iao . Though it will occasionally eat small insects, it seems very dependent on flower nectar at all times of year. Perhaps because of its love of flowers, the segasegamau’u seems happy to live close to people, in gardens and plantations. Although much less common than the iao in the forest, it is the honeyeater that you’re likely to see around villages. Around villages on Tutuila, that is; surprisingly, the segasegamau’u doesn’t occur on any of the islands of Manu’a. Outside of American Samoa, the species is found in western Samoa, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands, and very close relatives occur in Micronesia and Fiji.
The nest of the Cardinal Honeyeater is a beautiful, delicate cup of fine grass fibers, often decorated with moss. It may be placed high in a tree or almost on the ground in thick foliage. Four to five tiny eggs are laid. The segasegmau’u seems to nest in all months of the year.