Of Frigates and Pirates

Birds of Feather

I love Haleiwa and more often than not I will spend any spare time I have on the North Shore of the island visiting the little town. I was looking at a couple of old photos and got to wondering about the name “Haleiwa.”

Some people have told me that it got its name from the fact that the Iwa bird made its home in that area. I wondered why a bird whose Hawaiian name, Iwa, which means pirate would have a town named after it. I’d like to correct this. Actually Iwa means thief. The Frigate bird was named after the Pirate Frigates because of their swift movements and they were also thieves. The Hawaiians called the Frigate Bird Iwa or thief.

The Iwa or Frigate Bird Weather Vane

Here is a great site that I checked out full of little tidbits about the bird. http://www.susanscott.net/OceanWatch2000/oct16-00.html Among the many things she talks about is the tying of the Iwa birds better known name to pirates.

The Iwa is also known as the Great Frigate Bird. This bird does not producing enough oil for his feathers. He also does not have web feet and his legs are very short so he can’t swim well at all. But he has a 7 foot wing span and weighs under 4 pounds which gives him the ability to stay in the air for many, many hours. While soaring he will dive into the water when ever he can see fish or squid floating on top.

But like as not he is also known to steal fish out of the mouths of other birds as they are flying. Hence a Pirate. The word frigate can be connected to the Pirate ships, according to Susan Scott, going back to the 18th century.

Anyway, the Hawaiians did not look on the name, Iwa, as  negative. If you look into this site it states that Kamehameha the Great who united the Hawaiian Islands, was also called the Frigate Bird that hooks the islands together. This is a nice site and you might enjoy it. http://kailahawaii.com/2010/01/06/hawaiian-word-of-the-day-%CA%BBiwa/

You don’t see many of these Iwa birds out in Haleiwa today, though I’ve read they did once nest out there.  You are more likely to see them on the windward side of the island http://www.hawaiianatolls.org/research/NOWRAMP2002/features/frigatebird.php

But for me, robber baron, thief of the Booby Bird catches, or just a weather vane on the top of Liliuokalani Church in Haleiwa, his name means a trip to the country for me. And in that instance we are birds of a feather

The Weather Vane sits atop of Liliuokalani Church in Haleiwa


One comment on “Of Frigates and Pirates

  1. Linda Beauregard-Axelson says:

    love this post, Karen. especially find your links to be very useful. thanks so much for continuing to provide Hawaiiana to us all. Your heart is full of the Aloha Spirit!


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