The Pueo, or Hawaiian Owl (Asio flammeus sandwicensis) is considered sacred by many Hawaiians. It is one of the many physical manifestations (kinolau) of ancestral guardians (‘aumakua). The pueo is one of the more widely recognized of the Hawaiian (‘aumakua). These birds protect individuals from harm, and even death. One ‘aumakua from Maui, Pueonuiakea, guides individuals safely back to their home.
In battle, too, pueo are guardians. "Ka pueo kani kaua" is a saying in a chant describing the unique nature of the pueo as a protector during battle. One warrior under Kamehameha was even saved from falling off a pali (cliff face) by a pueo. As he was falling the pueo flew directly in front of his face, allowing him enough time to thrust his spear in to the cliff and saving him from imminent death.
In wahi pana (named places) pueo are important. The famous "owl king" of Manoa helped to drive out the Menehune from that valley. This king lived at an area called Pu‘u Pueo. There are other wahi pana like Ka Noniakapueo, east of Leahi (Diamond Head), Pueohulunui near Moanalua, and Kukaeunahiokapueo at Waikiki where a battle took place.
The next time you are met by this wonderful bird, step back, humbly greet it, and feel assured of safely making your destination!