Finding birds on O’ahu, Hawaii
The first time I went to Hawaii with my husband, Steve (the true birder in the family), I thought we’d see loads of fantastic birds. Why wouldn’t we? It’s warm and tropical and usually when we go to warm and tropical places (ala Mexico, Belize, Panama) we see many varied and colorful bird species. “Not so with Hawaii,” Steve said in preparing me for the trip. “About 75% of the native Hawaiian bird species are extinct.”
Extinction. They’re gone. Never to be seen again.
So we went, scuba dived and saw a couple of birds. It wasn’t a birding trip. I didn’t even try to look for birds.
Before our recent trip back to Hawaii, someone on Twitter wrote me, “Hope you see lots of birds!” to which I thought “That’s not going to happen,” feeling a little bummed that Hawaii’s not a very birdy place. (Yes, the great irony is that there are worse things to feel bad about, and going to Hawaii should never be one of them, I realize.)
But this time around it was different. Why not try to find some interesting birds still? Without doing any hard-core birding (the get-up-around-dawn kind of birding with a local guide) we were able to spot 24 bird species with nine of them being lifers (see in bold below in the list) during our four days on the island of O’ahu. The Pacific Golden Plover seemed to be everywhere, as he was wintering in Hawaii. (See my previous post, Aloha to the Pacific Golden Plover.)
A good place for spotting birds is the Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Gardens found on the North Shore of O’ahu. We had arrived an hour before closing and had we been able to spend more time there, I’m certain we would have spotted even more birds.
- Great Frigate Bird or ‘Iwa
- Black-crowned Night-Heron or ‘Auku’u
- Koloa / Mallard
- Common Moorhen or ‘Alae’ula
- Black-necked Stilt or Ae’o (endemic race)
- Pacific Golden Plover or Kolea
- Sanderling or Hunakai
- Wandering Tattler or ‘Ulili
- Common Peafowl at Botanical Gardens
- White-rumped Shama at Botanical Gardens
- Red Junglefowl or Moa (rooster)
- Cattle Egret
- Spotted Dove
- Rock Dove
- Zebra Dove
- Common Myna
- Red-vented Bulbul
- Red-whiskered Bulbul
- Red-crested Cardinal
- Brazilian Cardinal
- House Sparrow
- House Finch
- Common Waxbill
- Chestnut Munia
Yes, my list isn’t very long. And you’ll noticed the list is predominantly introduced species not native to Hawaii. Aside from the Rock Dove, House Finch, House Sparrow, mallard, Stilt and Rooster, the birds in my list are not birds I would find where I live. A little bummed that my list isn’t longer? Of course. Annoyed that 75% of the Hawaiian native species are extinct? Yes, definitely. But going to Hawaii and seeing birds I normally don’t see everyday is exciting. It gives you a sense of place—that you’re somewhere different. And isn’t that what travel is all about?
I’m trying to think about how we get people to care about the birds of Hawaii. Even the American Birding Association (ABA) had a survey earlier this year asking its members if Hawaii should be added to the ABA area. (See George Armistead’s blog on the ABA site for his Top 10 Reasons to make Hawaii part of the ABA.) My feeling is that Hawaii should be added. If not for the reason to help locals as well as visitors to the island appreciate the importance of birds.
Not bad for a place with no birds.
Thank you Mr. Tootlepedal. You’re right, not bad. I hope you’re on the mend.
What a beautiful gallery – love the sleepy turtle! I’ve never been to Hawaii, and I’ve never birded anywhere outside of Canada (my two trips to the States occurred before I was a birder, unfortunately). While it is distressing that such a large number of native Hawaiian species are extinct, at least there are other species there who call it home!
Thanks for stopping by. My husband is from Toronto and now lives in Alberta. (I live in Utah–I know, kind of crazy.) You have a lovely site. I’m hoping to visit Ottawa in Spring with my husband.
Isn’t that funny – I spent 7 years in Alberta as a teenager (= before birds, unfortunately) and now my sister lives there! I was out there for her wedding last July and did about 10 blog entries on my trip to Sherwood Park and Jasper.
I’ll be in southern Ontario this coming May for a week, but if you make it to Ottawa, feel free to send me a message! I can give you pointers on where to go birding, if you will have time for that sort of thing.
Thank you, as well, for stopping by my blog and for the compliment!
Some years back we watched a special recovery program/volunteers releasing A’os or Newell’s Shearwaters (Puffinus auricularis newelli) off a little cliffy area, down the beach from Poipu in Kauai. When the young birds get old enough they go to sea for several years-before returning to mate. We saw two take off, one made it one didn’t. Just happened along at the right time. (Little fellas-I bet it’s lonely out there!)
First of all I would like to thank you for visiting my blog site, the http://alzheimerrollercoaster.wordpress.com . I really enjoyed escaping from my world to yours! You brought a smile to my day, as well as memories of our two trips to Kauai. I believe it is the most beautiful place on earth! Waiting for the day I can go back. They have the cutest little cardinal bird I have ever seen!
Hi Carolyn, I too love that cardinal in Hawaii. Feel free to drop by and escape here any time. 🙂