Bird Watching in Hawaii

Feb 10, 2018 | General Information

Table of Contents
Birders in the U.S. and around the world should know that Hawaii’s birds consist of the greatest variety and examples of adaptation anywhere in the world. Hawaii provides a rare and wonderful travel adventure just looking at unique native bird species and introduced birds that call Hawaii home. It takes time to see only a small fraction of these birds on any island. But in just a few hours visitors or birders can see endangered native species, African game birds, European song birds and North American waterbirds.

Start your birding adventure on any island. On Oahu, for example, you’ll see bird species including Oahu Amakihi, Oahu Elepaio, Hwamei (Melodious Laughingthrush), and the colorful White-rumped Shama. On the northern tip of Oahu, the James Campbell Nation Wildlife Refuge was established for endangered species including the Hawaiian monk seal, Hawaiian Coot and the Black-necked Stilt. Other birds that might be seen include Black-crowned Night-Heron, Pacific Golden-Plover, Wandering Tattler, and Bristle-thighed Curlew. Birders look for seabirds at Makapu’u Point on the southeastern coast. Birds found seasonally include Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Red-tailed Tropicbird, Great Frigatebird, Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, and Sooty Tern.

Soon after entering Haleakala National Park on Maui, Hosmer Grove is a place to find native birds such as Hawaiian Goose, Maui Alauahio, Apapane, Iiwi, and Hawaii Amakihi. Even better birding can be found in nearby Waikamoi Preserve where Akohekohe and Maui Parrotbill reside (but requires a guided hike). The Kipahulu area on the Maui coast is known for its rainforest and bird species such as White-tailed Tropicbird, Great Frigatebird, and Black Noddy.

A salt marsh along the south-central coast of Maui, the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is located between the towns of Kihei and Māalaea. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the site as habitat for endangered birds like the Hawaiian Coot and Black-necked Stilt. Other birds attracted to the refuge wetlands include Black-crowned Night-Heron, Pacific Golden-Plover, Wandering Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, and several other shorebirds. Nearby Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary has a fishpond that hosts many of the same species as at Kealia.

Start on or continue to Kauai and see native birds such as Kauai Elepaio, Kauai Amakihi, Anianiau, and Apapane. Kokee State Park ranks with the best and most beautiful birding sites in Hawaii. Reaching it requires a drive up spectacular Waimea Canyon. Birders often report sightings of Hawaiian Goose, Kauai Elepaio, Apapane, Iiwi, Anianiau, Kauai Amakihi, and Akekee, and the extremely rare Puaiohi and Akikiki. Walking in the Alakai Swamp Trail increases the odds of seeing native birds, including possibly the Hawaiian Duck. A drive up to the Kalalau Valley Overlook provides a chance to see White-tailed Tropicbird.

Located on the cliffs of Kauai’s northern coast, the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is a splendid place to see a variety of seabirds. In addition to the Hawaiian Goose it usually is easy to see Laysan Albatross, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, White-tailed Tropicabird, Red-tailed Tropicbird, Great Frigatebird, Brown Booby, and Red-footed Booby.

Head for the Big Island to see some of Hawaii’s most interesting forest birds, including Hawaiian Hawk, the Iiwi, Hawaii Amakihi, Omao (Hawaiian Thrush), Nene (Hawaiian Goose), Hawaii Creeper, Akepa, and the Akiapolaau that you’ll easily recognize by its long, curved upper mandible and short, spike-like lower mandible. Birders the world over come to the Big Island hoping to see three Hawaiian birds in particular: the akiapolaau, the nukupuu, and the alala. The ohia forests of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are full of birds worth seeing and much easier to find. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge was established solely for forest bird management on the eastern slope of Mauna Kea above the Hamakua Coast.