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U.S.A. -- Hawaii --
Big Island (Hawaii)
16-23 August 1997
by David Powell
My wife and I went to the Big Island for our 20th wedding
anniversary. As a long time non-birding spouse, she was very
accommodating in allowing me a reasonable amount of time to go
birding. My birding was done in Volcano NP, a wonderful place to
visit even if you don't see any birds, Puu Laau, Hakalau Forest NWR,
Manuka State Park, Puu Anahulu, Mauna Lani Bay Resort, and along the
Saddle Road. My main reference was Doug Pratt's Enjoying Birds in
Hawaii, an essential reference for finding the birds in Hawaii, as well
as his Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical
Pacific. To get access to Hakalau Forest NWR, I went on a one day
guided tour run by Rob Pacheco of Hawaii Forest and Trail. He
runs an excellent tour, and has a thorough knowledge of the Big
Island's endemic birds, including their calls and songs. Rob has
a permit that allows him to access Hakalau 12 times per year, and he
picks his dates on a first come first served basis. The tour
costs $130, and this includes breakfast, lunch, water, pack, and
raingear (ponchos). He can be contacted via email at
email@example.com (note that I did not find them responsive at all via
email) or via phone at 800-464-1993 or at PO Box 2975, Kailua-Kona, HI
96745. I highly recommend them. (Please note that I have no
affiliation with Hawaii Forest and Trail, I'm just a satisfied
I spent the first couple of hours before breakfast birding each day, as
well as the full day to Hakalau, and an entire morning visiting Puu
Laau and Puu Anahulu. I also spent a couple of hours each on 3
afternoons. In all, I saw 49 species, including 11 endemics, 5 of
them on the endangered species list.
Accounts: (numbers refer to the sites in Pratt)
Pied-billed Grebe - 1 at
Aimakapa Pond (6), their only known breeding location in Hawaii.
White-tailed Tropicbird - seen
at Kilauea Iki and Halemaumau Crater, within the Kilauea Caldera at
Volcano NP (2). A total of about 15 birds seen, some very close.
Nene - A difficult species, as
there are no sure places to look for it on the Big Island. I
found two early (7:15) one morning in Volcano NP (2) along the road to
Hilina Pali Overlook, about 2 miles past Kipuka Nene. This spot
was recommended to me by a park ranger, one of the few times that I
actually got good information from a NP employee. I also saw 2
more birds later on at about 1:00 while I was sightseeing with my wife
at Halemaumau Crater. They flew by honking (very reminiscent of
Canada Goose), and landed by the parking lot. In both cases they
were very tame and allowed close approach. The NP has many signs
warning people not to feed the Nene. Apparently one of their
biggest problems is being hit by cars.
Io (Hawaiian Hawk) - I had good luck with this sometimes elusive
bird. I found my initial bird about 3:30 in the afternoon along
the Stainback Highway, about 1.5 miles down from the Kulani Rd.
This is a site recommended by Pratt in his species account. It
was perched in a dead snag near the road. The next morning as we
were leaving the village of Volcano, I saw two different birds soaring
about 2 mile apart, one over Jade Rd., just off Hwy 11, and another
from Hwy 11. When I went to Hakalau Forest NWR (14), we had two
circling overhead briefly before the mist closed in. On my last
morning in Hawaii, I had a young bird come into a tree near the B&B
I was staying at above Kailua-Kona, below Holualoa.
Black Francolin - seen early
morning and late afternoon at several spots, particularly along the
Waikoloa Road between Hwy 19 and Hwy 190.
Erckell's Francolin - the most
common francolin. Seen easily in the early morning and late
afternoon at several spots, including the Saddle Road, Puu Laau (11),
Keanakolu Rd on the way into Hakalau (14), and at the Puu Lani Ranch
subdivision (8). I had an interesting time with the
subdivision. The first two time that I went there, mid morning,
and late afternoon on the same day the gate was open. The next
two times, both in the early morning, the gate was closed. No one
hassled me when I went in, but it seems problematical if the gate is
Gray Francolin - seen easily in
the early morning and late afternoon around the resorts on the Kohala
Coast (10), particularly on the golf courses. These resorts have
easy public access.
Chukar - an adult with a
couple of young seen early one morning on the Saddle Road.
Kalij Pheasant - I found this
species to be quite common in many different habitats, again in the
early morning and late afternoon. I saw them at Thurston Lava
Tubes, Kipuka Puaulu, and Kipuka Ki in Volcano NP(2), Puu Laau (11),
the Saddle Road, and along the Keanakolu Road (14).
Indian Peafowl - I both heard
and saw several at the Makalei Hawaii Country Club at MM31 along Hwy
190. I drove in early in the morning, and saw them perched in the
trees near the road by the clubhouse. Again, no one hassled me,
possibly because it was early morning. I also saw 3 in an open
field on the makai side of Hwy 190 just past the entrance to the
Wild Turkey - several flocks
seen along the Saddle Road, and on the way into Puu Laau (11).
California Quail - numerous
flocks on the road into Puu Laau (11), and a couple of flocks on the
way into Hakalau (14).
Hawaiian Coot - numerous at
Aimakapa Pond (6).
Pacific Golden-Plover -
anyplace with grass had these birds, from the coastal golf courses to
the slopes of Mauna Kea at 9000 feet. Also seen along the ocean.
Black-necked (Hawaiian) Stilt -
2 at Aimakapa Pond (6).
Black Noddy - a couple seen near the Holei Sea Arch in Volcano NP (2).
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse -
38 seen in a 15 minute span from 9:45 - 10:00 at MM50 along the Saddle
Road. All the birds were flying north to south, in flocks of 2 -
Barn Owl - one along the Saddle
Road, another at Puu Lani Ranch (8), both during the day.
Short-eared Owl (Pueo) - 2
along the Saddle Road in the late afternoon while returning from
Sky Lark - everywhere in the
higher elevation grassland on Mauna Kea.
Elepaio - I saw all three
subspecies during my stay, but found them difficult, except at Hakalau
(14). I saw the volcano subspecies at Kipuka Ki in Volcano NP (2)
and at Hakalau, the mamane subspecies at Puu Laau (11), and the Kona
subspecies at the top end of the nature trail at Manuka State Park
(4). In each case I only saw a couple of birds.
Omao - Seen and head at Kipuka
Ki and Thurston Lava Tubes in Volcano NP (2) without too much
difficulty. Several seen easily at Hakalau
Red-billed Leiothrix - seen
easily at Kipuka Ki in Volcano NP (2), Puu Laau (11), Hakalau (14), and
Manuka State Park (4). I expected this species to be tougher to
see, but once their churing call is known, they are easy to find and
Yellow-billed Cardinal - easily
seen at Mauna Lani Bay Resort along the Kohala Coast (10) and at
Aimakapa Pond (6). Also seen in Kailua-Kona.
Saffron Finch - found easily at
Mauna Lani Bay Resort (10), Puu Anahulu (8), particularly Puu Lani
Ranch, and at our B&B near Kailua-Kona (Hale Maluhia), coming to a
feeder that gets filled each morning.
Yellow-fronted Canary - large
numbers seen in several locations. Easy at Puu Laau (11) and Puu
Palila - 3 seen one morning at
Puu Laau (8). I tried for a couple of hours one afternoon with no
luck, and then found them without too much difficulty the next morning,
thanks in no small part to Mike Austin (who runs the TX RBA), who had
spotted them earlier and provided directions when I met him on the way
up the trail. This was in the area recommended by Pratt, above
and behind the cabin at Puu Laau. I would have said about a half
mile back along the track is where Mike found them, and I saw 1
bird. I then saw 2 more while walking back to my car.
Hawaii Amakihi - the easiest
endemic to see. I saw them in Volcano NP (2), at Puu Anahulu (8),
at Hakalau Forest NWR (14), in Manuka State Park (4), and at Puu Laau
(11). At all of these locations, they were easy.
Akiapolaau - two, a male and a
female well seen at Hakalau Forest NWR (14), with another heard.
Hawaii Creeper - at least 6
seen at Hakalau Forest NWR (14), with several more heard.
Akepa - at least 20 seen at
Hakalau Forest NWR (14).
Iiwi - seen only at Puu Laau
(11) and Hakalau Forest NWR (14), but easy in both locations.
Apapane - another very common
endemic, but not as widespread as the Amakihi. Seen in large
numbers in Volcano NP (2), at Puu Laau (11), at Hakalau Forest NWR
(14), and particularly large numbers in Manuka State Park (4), along
the nature trail.
Lavender Waxbill - seen only at
Puu Anahulu (8), where I had about 15 late one afternoon and 2 on
another morning, both times at the bottom of the hill mentioned in
Red Avadavat - a large flock
seen one morning and a few seen another morning at Puu Anahulu
(8). At about MM19 on Hwy 190, there is a track that you can hike
in the makai direction through some good grassland. I had
Avadavats, Yellow-fronted Canarys, Scaly-breasted Munia, and African
(Warbling) Silverbill all in good numbers here. African
(Warbling) Silverbill - seen at a number of dry locations, particularly
around Puu Anahulu and Puu Lani Ranch (8).
Java Sparrow - a large flock
comes in to the feeder at Hale Maluhia B&B where we stayed in the
Kailua-Kona area, the only ones I saw.
Other species seen: Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Common
(Ring-necked) Pheasant, Ruddy Turnstone, Wandering Tattler, Spotted
Dove, Zebra Dove, Scaly-breasted Munia (Nutmeg Mannikin), House Finch,
House Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, and most common of all, Common Myna.
Half Moon Bay, CA