Hawaii: Honeycreepers and Alien Species

2:48 PM

Recently (January 2011) Natura Tours ventured to the tropical islands of Hawaii. We primarily visited two Hawaiian Islands, Kauai and Hawaii (the Big Island); but we also spent one day on Oahu before flying back to the mainland. During our time in Hawaii we totaled a bird list of 49 species, 26 non-native species and 23 native species (14 of which are endemic species).

While you can see birds just about anywhere you go on the Hawaii Islands, the majority of birds you will see in cities and in more of the accessible places are species which have been introduced. With ideal climate and conditions a wide variety of alien birds which have been able to survive , make up the majority of the species most commonly observed. An extra effort needs to be made to seek out endemics, especially those birds that Hawaii is famous for, the endemic Hawaiian Honeycreepers and Finches (Drepanidnae). With so many of the Hawaiian Honeycreepers extinct or near extinction a chance to see these little jewels cause birders to flock to these small volcanic islands. Many of the endemic Honeycreepers and Finches favor higher altitudes where there is more natural habitat and less competition from introduced bird species. They are tricky to set binoculars on as they quickly flit around high up in the tree tops (back-lit by the sun) , drinking nectar. A highly trained ear is needed to sort out the various calls as many of these birds sound quite similar. Also, many are similar in color (greenish yellow and reds) and field markings have to be observed for a positive id. We searched in well known and "secret spots" and were rewarded with several Honeycreeper sightings. The highlights for this trip being the always satisfying 'I'iwi and the rare Palila (a species restricted to a single mountain at an elevation of 6,000-9,000 feet).

While Hawaiian Honeycreepers and Finches are some of the most sought after species the Hawaii Islands are also home to a wide variety of endemic and visiting, marine and wetland birds. Inland wetlands and nature reserves rewarded us with sightings of many of the indigenous wetlands birds including, Hawaiian Ducks, Nene, Hawaiian Coots, Hawaiian Moorhens and Black-Necked Stilts. Birding along the coast we spotted several sea birds including, Great Frigatebirds, Red-Footed Boobies and Laysan Albatross. We also saw some marine mammals including Spinner Dolphins and Humpback Whales.

While we always prefer to see native species of birds in the places we travel to, it is difficult to not get excited by glimpses of introduced species such as Red-Crested Cardinals, White-Rumped Shamas and Kalij Phesants.

Below we have posted some photos from our tour of Hawaii and we have also posted our final bird list. A video from our trip will be posted soon as well. Please have a look at our below photos and enjoy.

Kauai (the Garden Island)

Kauai Waterfall

Kauai Waterfall

National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai

National Wildlife Refuge, Kauai

Nene or Hawaiian Goose

Laysan Albatross

State Park, Kauai

Waimea Canyon (Grand Canyon of the Pacific), Kauai

The red dirt Kauai is famous for

Red Junglefowl are everywhere on the island of Kauai.
Originally brought over by Polynesian colonists to be a
source of food. Populations on Kauai are considered wild.

Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Crater (at night), Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lava flow, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiian Hawk or 'Io (dark phase)

Hawaiian Hawk or 'Io (dark phase)

The introduced Coqui Frog from Puetro Rico

Nene or Hawaiian Goose

High elevation habitat on Hawaii (the Big Island), ideal for Palilas

Alpine flowers

'Ohi'a trees favoured by Honeycreepers for their nectar

'Ohi'a blossom

'I'iwi in an 'Ohi'a tree (poor photo)

A Pacific Green Sea Turtle resting on a volcanic beach

Pacific Green Sea Turtles resting on a volcanic beach

Pacific Green Sea Turtles resting on a volcanic beach

Saffron Finch

Common Mynas

Java Sparrow

Mallards, one species that threatens the Hawaiian Duck
through hybridization

Common Waxbill

Hilo, Hawaii (the Big Island)

Pacific Golden-Plover a winter visitor

Cattle Egret

Hawaiian Black-Crowned Night Heron or Auku`u

Red-Crested Cardinal

Red-Crested Cardinal

Red-Vented Bulbul

Red-Vented Bulbul

Wandering Tattler a common winter visitor from Alaska

Yellow-Fronted Canary

Spotted Dove

Zebra Dove

Zebra Dove

White Tern

White Tern

White Pigeon (Honolulu, Oahu) common in the same area as where
White Terns are found and are sometimes confused with White Terns

Hawaiian Islands (Kauai, Hawaii and Oahu) Bird List 2011:

* - Indicated an introduced (alien) species
  1. Laysan Albratross or Moli (Phoebastria immutabilis)
  2. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)*
  3. Hawaiian Duck or Koloa (Anas wyvilliana)
  4. Nene or Hawaiian Goose (Branta sandvicensis)
  5. Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)*
  6. Red-Footed Booby (Sula sula rubripes)
  7. Great Frigatebird or Iwa (Fregata minor palmerstoni)
  8. White-Tailed Tropicbird or Koa’e Kea (Phaethon lepturus dorotheae)
  9. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)*
  10. Hawaiian Black-Crowned Night Heron or Auku`u (Nycticorax nycticorax hoactli)
  11. Hawaiian Hawk or 'Io (Buteo solitaries)
  12. Erckel’s Francolin (Francolinus erckelli)*
  13. Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)*
  14. Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos)*
  15. Ring-Necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)*
  16. Hawaiian Coot (Fulica alai)
  17. Hawaiian Common Moorhen or Alae 'ula (Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis)
  18. Black-Necked Stilt or Ae'O (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni)
  19. Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
  20. Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
  21. Wandering Tattler or ‘Ulili (Tringa incanus)
  22. White Tern (Gygis alba)
  23. Rock Pigeons (Columba livia)*
  24. Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata)*
  25. Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis)*
  26. Hawaii Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis sandwichensis)
  27. Kauai Elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis sclateri)
  28. Japanese Bush-Warbler (Cettia diphone)*
  29. Chinese Hwamei (Leucodioptron canorum)*
  30. White-Rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus)*
  31. Oma'o (Myadestes obscurus)
  32. Red-Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)*
  33. Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis)*
  34. Japanese White-Eye (Zosterops japonicas)*
  35. Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola)*
  36. Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild)*
  37. Nutmeg Mannikin (Lonchura punctulata)*
  38. Java Sparrow (Padda oryzivora)*
  39. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)*
  40. Red-Crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronate)*
  41. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)*
  42. Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)*
  43. House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)*
  44. Apapane (Himatione sanguinea)
  45. Palila (Loxioides bailleui)
  46. Yellow-Fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus)*
  47. I'iwi (Vestiaria coccinea)
  48. Kauai Amakihi (Hemignathus kauaiensis)
  49. Hawaii Amakihi (Hemignathus virens virens)
Happy Birding!

~ Kristen Martyn

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