Birding the Americas Trip Report and Planning Repository
Return to the Main Index

Return to the North America Index
Return to the U.S.A. Index
Return to the Hawaii Index

U.S.A.  --  Hawaii – Kaua’i & Maui

11 - 20 January 1997

by Tom Gill

I recently returned from nine days in Kaua'i and Maui, split relatively evenly between the two islands.  While birding was definitely not the prime focus of this trip, I always kept binoculars close at hand.  I apologize in advance for not using the scientific names of the species.

I ditched the bird books I had brought in favor of HAWAII'S BIRDS, published by the Hawaii Audubon Society (1993).  This pocket-sized guide I found to be quite sufficient for my purposes; it was available for sale at a number of museums and visitor centers.  I am generally using its common names for the observations below.


I found the diversity (34 species)- as well as the total number of individuals- of birds much higher on this island than Maui.  As with almost all of the Hawaiian Islands, introduced birds strongly dominate the avifauna (native or endemic birds will be noted below).  As an aside, I was struck by the evidence of hurricane damage- from devastating storms in 1982 and 1992- that is still readily apparent on the island.  This has also led to Kauai reportedly losing over 25% of its human population in the last five years, although it makes the island seem less crowded and- to me- more enjoyable.

Species that were easily observed in many places were PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER (native), CATTLE EGRET, COMMON MYNA, JUNGLE FOWL (introduced hundreds of years ago by the original Pacific Islanders), ZEBRA DOVE, ROCK DOVE, HOUSE FINCH, JAPANESE WHITE-EYE, and NUTMEG MANNIKIN (RICEBIRD).

Kilauea Point NWR was an excellent location for getting close-up looks at several pelagic birds (and one unexpected species), as well as humpback whales.  I would like to publicly commend the staff and volunteers at this refuge for doing an excellent job of education and interpretation of the birdlife, with spotting scopes set up for visitors, and a table of binoculars which were actively loaned to visitors at the entrance station and interpretive center.

Currently nesting at the refuge in large numbers are the LAYSAN ALBATROSS (native- also seen elsewhere on the island) and RED-FOOTED BOOBY (native).  Surprisingly, a small population of NENE (native- also seen at Kokee State Park, where they have been reintroduced) naturally dispersed to Kilauea Point (apparently from Maui) 10 years ago and is breeding.  Also seen very close overhead were the native WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (also seen elsewhere on the island), RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD, and GREAT FRIGATEBIRD.

Kokee State Park, north of Waimea Canyon in the upland native forest, is certainly the best place to see the few remaining native land birds.  A few other species still persist deep in the Alakai "Swamp" (more accurately but less poetically the "Alakai Upland Wet Rainforest"), which is an expedition in itself.  Found at the state park, in addition to the Nene, were four native species of honeycreepers; the 'AMAKIHI, 'ANIANAU (Lesser 'Amakihi)(endemic to Kauai), 'APAPANE, and 'I'IWI.  Walking around the park lodge area and campground found the first three species; the latter two were numerous in the upper canopy of the forest at the end of the road by either of the two NaPali coast lookouts, and easily viewed by walking to the edge of the overlooks and looking the other way from the crowds, back into the treetops.  (Elepaio, another native land bird, is also apparently easily seen at the state park, but I missed it for some strange reason!)

The wetlands around Hanalei are a good place to find some of the native (sub)species of water birds; I had the HAWAIIAN COOT and HAWAIIAN BLACK-NECKED STILT, and missed the Hawaiian race of Common Moorhen and the Hawaiian Duck (Koloa Maoli, my real 'jinx bird' of this trip).  At the NaPali coast trailhead at the end of the road west of Hanalei I found several SHAMA (as well as, er, uh, several persons who were hunting nongame species without permits out of season in a closed area amongst groups of people- not good!).  Near the Princeville Airport I saw two JAVA SPARROWS. 

By Wailua Falls I saw several CHESTNUT MANNIKIN, and in upland rangelands near Kilauea a WESTERN MEADOWLARK perched on a fencepost.  I had several RED AVADAVATS (Strawberry Finch) at the edge of a field north of Kapaa, and heard (but did not see) COTURNIX in several grassy areas.  Coming down Waimea Canyon Road I was literally startled by an ERCKEL'S FRANCOLIN.  SPOTTED DOVE were present in several places but not common, and NORTHERN CARDINAL were most numerous on the dry side of the island.  A good place to observe many RED-CRESTED CARDINALs and other introduced land birds was the Kai Guava Plantation south of Kilauea.  Finally, WANDERING TATTLERs were present along the beaches.


The settled areas were more crowded here (miles-long traffic jams...), and the birdlife seemed sparser everywhere.  However, there are some unique natural areas (such as Haleakala "Crater"- also misnamed) and I found several good birding spots.

Birds present in many areas were the ubiquitous SPOTTED DOVE (much more numerous than on Kauai), COMMON MYNA, ROCK DOVE, HOUSE SPARROW, HOUSE FINCH, NORTHERN CARDINAL, JAPANESE WHITE-EYE, and NUTMEG MANNIKIN; PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER, CATTLE EGRET and ZEBRA DOVE were widespread but nowhere near as numerous as on Kauai.

As recommended to me by some birdchatters, I found the easiest place to find native species of land birds to be Hosmer Grove near the entrance to Haleakala NP.  The nature trail was fascinating, but I didn't see any species that weren't numerous right in the parking lot and campground!  The four native species here were the 'AMAKIHI, 'APAPANE, 'I'IWI, and the warblerlike MAUI CREEPER ('ALAUAHIO).  On the way up Haleakala I had a close observation of the PUEO (native race of Short-Eared Owl), hunting in daylight hovering in the air near the roadside, and saw quite a few EURASIAN SKYLARKs.

The HAWAIIAN BLACK-NECKED STILT (native race) was numerous in the ponds set aside as refuges for it on both the north and south sides of the central valley.  GRAY FRANCOLINs were very common in the acacia woodlands on the south side of Haleakala.  Finally, along the beaches and coasts I observed BLACK NODDY, SANDERLING, RUDDY TURNSTONE, and several WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATERS (it seemed to early for these birds, but I observed a pair rather closely for several minutes).

Tom Gill
Lubbock, Texas

Birding Top 500 Counter