I traveled and birded in Hawaii from September 14th to October 1st, 1994. These are some notes that I pulled together that might be helpful to anyone visiting Kauai, Oahu, and Hawaii. There are some obvious holes in my treatment, partly because this was my first trip to the islands, and my non-birding spouse seemed to think that there were things other than birding to do in Hawaii.
I did not spend much time on the Kona coast of Hawaii or in upper elevation areas on any island. Nor did I have a chance to try pelagic birding. Nonetheless, I saw 69 species (a list is attached), many of which were lifers, during my stay.
In preparing for Hawaii birding, I downloaded all the Hawaii-related messages from the BIRDCHAT archives and got the available guides and notes from ABA. Two 'chatters were especially helpful in providing information (thanks, Bud Johnson and Gail Mackiernan). I would highly recommend Pratt's field guide The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific; the illustrations and discussion are excellent. The small volume put out by the Hawaii Audubon Society Hawaii's Birds wasn't nearly as useful, as it only depicts one photograph of each species (and some photos weren't very clear). However the HAS publication is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and costs much less than Pratt's guide. Another option for bird finding, that I did not know about during my trip, is the natural history and birding trips now being advertised in Birding magazine (see page 297 of the October 1994 issue). The company is based on Hawaii and is called Hawaii Forest and Trail (808-329-1993). They advertise six person maximum, 1-3 day trips for endemics, indigenous, exotic, and endangered species. I'm intrigued by their statement that they have exclusive access to native forest and can get birders into Hakalau NWR. I can't wait for a 'chatter to try them out and let the rest of us know how they are.
I found Doug Pratt's book Enjoying Birds in Hawaii: A Birdfinding Guide to the Fiftieth State (available from ABA and in about every moderately-sized bookstore I visited in Hawaii) to be a great resource for birding locations. Get this book!!! Combine it with a field guide and BIRDCHAT messages, and you'll be on track to see some great birds.
My comments are intended to supplement Pratt's finding guide; I will not replicate directions that he provides there.
There is still considerable damage from Hurricane Iniki (which struck in September 1992). Many businesses are still rebuilding from storm damage. For example, the Hanalei Bay Resort was operating with only 40% of its pre-storm rooms available. In several locations, all mature trees are bare and dead. In other areas, upper branches lacked leaves and appeared dead.
Good location for introduced species (especially laughing-thrushes). Much of the perimeter of Wailua Reservoir is posted "no trespassing". The grassy areas near the reservoir are good for WESTERN MEADOWLARK. The Keahua "Arboretum" is little more than small grassy areas interspersed with trees. I located a GREATER NECKLACED LAUGHING-THRUSH in the dense shrubs that are about 100 feet left of the road, before the stream crossing. The road above the Arboretum is excellent for WHITE-RUMPED SHAMA.
Stunning location for RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD, WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD, RED-FOOTED BOOBY, WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER, and GREAT FRIGATEBIRD. The hurricane destroyed the visitor center and interpretive area, neither of which has been rebuilt. There were no park personnel in evidence during our visits (no admission was charged). Contrary to Pratt, it is no longer possible to borrow a telescope at the visitor center. All hiking trails were closed during our visit. The walk out to the lighthouse and the best area for viewing tropicbirds and boobies are closed on Saturdays AND Sundays. You can still view tropicbirds and boobies from the parking lot area (even when the refuge is closed), however the view is more distant and you will not see the nests of the shearwaters. They have reintroduced a flock of NENE to the area, however they apparently wander to as far Lihue and locating them can be difficult.
Good location for native waterbirds and several introduced species. COMMON MOORHEN, HAWAIIAN DUCK, and BLACK-NECKED STILT are easily viewed in the taro fields along the road between Princeville and Hanalei. Note that this road is often closed due to flooding during rainy periods. In Princeville, check the grassy areas near the entrance to the development for CHESTNUT MANNIKIN, RED-CRESTED CARDINAL, and NUTMEG MANNIKIN. PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER were common on the road margins and at the Princeville Golf Course. JAVA SPARROWS were seen in residential yards in the Princeville area and at the Hanalei Bay Resort.
Good location for noddies. A scope would be very helpful, as may of the seabirds are flying far enough offshore to make binoculars frustrating. If anything, Pratt underemphasizes the crowds at this beach area. Parking, even on weekdays, can be a problem. The trail along the Na Pali Coast is very steep and becomes slippery (and very muddy) after rain.
The canyon was very quiet during our visit. We did see an ERCKEL'S FRANCOLIN along the road while driving into the area. The Puu Hinahina lookout area appears to be best in the very early a.m.
The museum sells the Hawaii bird checklist and bird books (including Pratt's two books). The museum includes a display of taxidermy specimens of several Hawaiian endemics. PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER were common in the grassy picnic area near the museum.
Local game and fish personnel indicated that this was THE place for migrating BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW. I did not get a chance to visit the area, but there were apparently 5-6 individuals being seen between the road closure and the point.
This is a good location for introduced species, including (though not mentioned by Pratt) RED-VENTED BULBUL. Mosquitos were horrendous in the early morning.
Good location for introduced species, COMMON FAIRY TERN, and PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER. High-rise resort hotels in east Waikiki (near the park) provide views of the terns flying over Kapiolani Park (morning and evening). The archery range area seemed to contain the greatest diversity of introduced species. Both "entrances" to the trail through the Na Laau Arboretum are posted "no trespassing" (with dire consequences to anyone who ignores the signs). I could not find any other access to this area.
Another good location for GREAT FRIGATEBIRD overflights.
Interesting shorebird habitat. Low tide exposes much more of the area and seems to attract greater numbers of shorebirds.
Pratt recommends this area for shorebirds. The ponds were full during my visit, and most of the shorebirds were seen on the grassy fields on the park. Also a good area for introduced finches; I saw 100s of COMMON WAXBILL and NUTMEG MANNIKIN.
The area contains 20-30 ponds. Although several are close to the main highway, a scope would be helpful (for viewing more distant ponds).
This location was completely overgrown with weeds or lotus plants during our visit. Without open water, there is no chance of seeing shorebirds.
This is Pratt's location for YELLOW-FACED GRASSQUIT. His book makes the location sound remote and inaccessible. Neither is the case; I didn't time it, but it seemed like about a half hour from the Pearl Harbor area. I located two birds in the lower grassy areas, just above the subdivision and homes. In addition to the birds, this was a very nice hiking location.
The Park Visitor Center sells several Hawaii bird books and the Hawaii bird checklist. As Pratt notes, there are only two hotels in the area, however there are several very nice bed-and-breakfasts (call 808-967-7216 or 800-733-3839). In terms of dining, the Golf Course dining room is only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. The Volcano House provides fairly uninspired all-you-can-eat cafeteria dining, with a view of the crater. Kilauea Lodge offers more elaborate meals (reservations recommended), but prices are high (main courses about $20). I heard that the cafeteria at the Kilauea Military Camp is open to the public, but that dinner service ends at 6:30pm. As an alternative, you can stay in a room with a kitchenette (at least at My Island Bed-and-Breakfast). Grocery prices in Volcano are quite high, and all stores close by 6:00pm.
HVNP--Crater Rim Drive. Excellent for WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD and NENE. Note that portions of the drive and trails may be closed in late September and October, in order to protect nesting Nene.
HVNP--Chain of Craters Road. BLACK NODDIES nest near the Holei Sea Arch and can be seen near the end of the road.
HVNP--Mauna Loa Strip. The approximately one mile trail at Bird Park was good for KALIJ PHEASANTS, RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX, and other introduced species. Also check the drive through the Tree Molds (adjacent to Bird Park) in the late afternoon for KALIJ PHEASANT. I had very few native forest birds at Bird Park or Kipuka Ki.
Spectacular view and sea. I saw nothing of the BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW or seabirds, however there were impressive numbers of RUDDY TURNSTONE, PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER, and EURASIAN SKYLARK in the low grasses near the point. You may also be able to drive on dirt tracks across the grassy areas, along the east shore headed north. This seems like a likely spot, for birds or a fantastic picnic.
Good locations for introduced species, including YELLOW-BILLED CARDINAL, GRAY FRANCOLIN, SAFFRON FINCH, WARBLING SILVERBILL, and ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET. Rumor has it that BLACK FRANCOLIN and CHUKAR are regularly fed near the Royal Waikoloa Cabana area (early a.m.), though I saw neither there. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON are common at the fish ponds at the Royal Waikoloa. WANDERING TATTLER were common on the shores in the area. Although it feels a little like an amusement part, the ferry ride inside the Hilton provides excellent close-up (within 5 feet) views of WANDERING TATTLER. The birds forage along the side of the artificial canals, gleaning fish and other food that the passing ferry boats push towards "shore".
The kipuka to the west of mile marker 21 (just east of Powerline Road) provides wonderfully accessible views of many forest species including ELEPAIO, OMAO, APAPANE, IIWI, and COMMON AMAKIHI. I also had AKEPA here, as well as a few introduced species (YELLOW-FRONTED CANARY, HOUSE FINCH, JAPANESE WHITE- EYE). The level of bird activity definitely faded by mid-morning. I also walked out to some of the more distant kipukas along Powerline Road and saw the same common forest (not the Omao or Akepa) and introduced species. Pratt's comments about obscured visibility (by fog) cannot be stressed enough. The fog really socks in. When I entered one kipuka there was about 200 feet visibility. By the time I left (less than an hour) there was about 15 feet visibility. TAKE A COMPASS, without one I would have had a very hard time relocating the Powerline Road (BTW, by the time I got back to my car, visibility was about 10 feet). Also the distant rumbling that you hear along the saddle road may not be thunder, rather artillery fire from the military base near the crest in the Saddle Road.
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