Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Feral Fowl; or, Avian Flu, Anyone?

Feral fowl

Up close and personal

Feral cats

Feral seal

Among its many other attractions, Kaua'i has a very large feral chicken population. Wherever people are, there are scores, hundreds, thousands of them, roosters, and hens, and chicks, but most conspicuously, roosters. See illustration. I am sure we have seen and heard 10,000 roosters in the past week. This is no exaggeration. They are clearly the island's largest biomass. Tyson's should buy this island.

The guidebooks gloss over the chicken thing as one of the local curiosities. Most tourists stay in isolated, air-conditioned resorts, and do not have to endure the incessant cockle-doodle-doo-ing. They see them at the “sights” and oogle and even feed them. How cute. Look, Danny, it's a rooster, just like on a farm. What's a farm, Dad?

I have asked a number of locals about the roosters and have gotten a variety of interesting stories. All begin with the hurricanes that devastated the island in the early 90s. Lots of fowl flew their coops. According to the more colorful stories, among those fleeing the coop were the King's Roosters. (Elvis? He had roosters on Kaua'i?). They mated with the hens that also flew the coop, and thus, their numberless progeny, as royal Polynesian descendants, are “protected.” According to other stories, people like them because they are “natural.” Personally, I think they are repulsive and possibly unhealthy, but that's just culturally-insensitive old me.

Kaua'i also has a significant feral cat population. They are apparently tame, even friendly, most just looking for a hand-out or a good home. Cats are so sly. But they also are everywhere, even the Kalalau trail. Kaua'i benefits from them, however. Unlike the Big Island, we have seen no mice on Kaua'i. And the cats don't start screeching at 3AM.

I think the cats should be encouraged to take on the roosters. No one else will. Clawageddon.

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