Trip Report: Oahu & Kauai, December 13-26, 2000

Urs Geiser, Woodridge, IL, USA;


In December 2000 I had the opportunity to attend a scientific conference in Honolulu. The rest of my family joined me afterwards, and we spent another week in Kauai. There we stayed the entire week in Lihue, first in a condo then at the adjacent, friendly Garden Island Inn. The condo was also owned by the people at the hotel, but it was available only for the first four nights. A small beach park was just across the street from the hotel.

Lihue is on the east shore of the island and about the same distance from the end of the main coastal highway in both directions. The northwestern Na Pali coast is incredibly steep and not reachable by road. The interior of the island consists of wooded, largely inaccessible highlands with one of the wettest places on earth (Mt. Wai'ale, over 440 inches of rain per year).

From Lihue we undertook several day trips, e.g. to the Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Forest, and to the north shore. We also did some snorkeling at Lydgate Park (Wailua) and at Poipu Beach on the south shore. In the evening of Christmas Day we attended the luau at Smith's in Wailua: nice tropical garden setting, a buffet dinner with life entertainment, followed by a professional dance show complete with erupting fake volcano.

This was the first time that we spent Christmas away from home and not with relatives. It was a somewhat different experience, but it sure beat battling the snow problems at home!

For a complete bird list and notes on birding locations, see below.

Picture Gallery

Hawaiian Geese or Nene, Branta sandviciensis, in front of nesting burrows used by Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Puffinus pacificus, at other times of the year. Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai. Laysan Albatross, Phoebastria immutabilis, Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai.
Great Frigatebird, Fregata minor. Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai. Immature Black-crowned Night-Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, in a palm tree. Kapiolani Park, Honolulu.
Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis. Kualoa Co. Regional Park, Oahu. This species was introduced in the 1950s to control agricultural pests. It is now extremely common in the lowlands of Kauai and locally common on Oahu and elsewhere. Red Junglefowl, Gallus gallus, the ancestral form of the domestic chicken. Waimea Canyon, Kauai. These birds were brought by the early Polynesian settlers and are now found all over the island of Kauai (the only main Hawaiian island without introduced mongoose). Only highland birds with gray legs and wild-type plumage are "countable".
The Pacific Golden-plover, Pluvialis fulva, is an abundant winter visitor found on every piece of grass on the islands, where each bird defends a feeding territory. This bird was photographed in a parking lot on Sand Island, Honolulu. Zebra Dove, Geopelia striata. This is one of the most abundant introduced species, found almost everywhere except in the highest mountain forests. Their monotonous, Morse code-like cooing is now a characteristic sound of Hawaii.
Red-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus cafer, in an Ironwood tree in Honolulu's Kapiolani Park. This introduced species is currently undergoing a population explosion on Oahu. The Red-crested Cardinal, Paroaria coronata, is another very attractive introduced species. It is quite common on Oahu and Kauai. Kapiolani Park, Honolulu.
Yellow-fronted Canary, Serinus mozambicus, another introduced species. It is found mainly around Honolulu (photo: Kapiolani Park) and on the Big Island. Java Sparrow, Padda oryzivora, a common bird of lawns and gardens. Photographed at our hotel's feeder in Lihue.
Gulf Frittilary, Agraulis vanillae (or close relative), a member of the Heliconia group. Undoubtedly an introduced species, as there are only two native Hawaiian butterflies. Photographed along Oahu's north shore.

Complete List Birds Seen - December 13-26, 2000

*: Life birds

English NameScientific Name Oahu
Laysan Albatross*Phoebastria immutabilis  X Nesting colony at Kilauea Lighthouse. While I didn't see any albatross on Oahu, friends told me that they encountered some at Ka'ena Point, the westernmost part of the island.
White-tailed TropicbirdPhaethon lepturus  XSurprisingly common in mountain valleys, e.g. Waimea Canyon. Also at Kilauea Lighthouse and at Wailua Falls.
Brown Booby*Sula leucogaster XX First encountered off Sand Island Park, Honolulu. Later seen, usually singly or in small numbers, at various locations over the ocean.
Red-footed BoobySula sula XX Largest numbers at nesting colony next to Kilauea Lighthouse, but also seen in small numbers elsewhere over the ocean.
Great FrigatebirdFregata minor  XMainly at Kilauea Lighthouse, a few also at other locations along the eastern shore of Kauai.
Cattle EgretBubulcus ibis XX On Kauai practically everywhere, even (or especially) in sugarcane. On Oahu mainly in the Pearl Harbor area and locally along the north shore.
Black-crowned Night-HeronNycticorax nycticorax XX Present in small numbers practically everywhere where there is exposed fresh water, even in Waikiki (e.g. Ala Wai, Kapiolani Park, Ala Moana Park).
Hawaiian Goose (Nene)Branta sandvicensis  X Nene are being reintroduced on Kauai, apparently with some success. The birds at the Kilauea Lighthouse are extremely tame but probably not countable (release site). Several Nene were seen in the Lihue area, mainly on harvested sugarcane fields and golf courses.
MallardAnas platyrhynchos XX While not particularly common, this species usually outnumbers Hawaiian Duck in wetlands, especially on Oahu. Some individuals show signs of domestication and hybridization.
Hawaiian Duck (Koloa)*Anas wyvilliana XX Not always easy to distinguish from Mallards (esp. hens, and with the possibility of hybrids). I finally connected with this species at the Amorient Aquafarms on Oahu's north shore. Others were seen on Kauai, e.g. in the Huleia Stream Valley.
Erckel's Francolin*Francolinus erckelii  X Both visits to Waimea Canyon yielded single birds of this species. The first time one ran across the road, the second time I found a bird at the Pu'u Ka Pele Lookout.
Red Junglefowl*Gallus gallus  XSee photo legend, above.
Common MoorhenGallinula chloropus XX Several birds of this endemic race were seen at each of these locations: Amorient Aquafarm (Oahu), Hanalei N.W.R., Lihue-Nawiliwili Stream, Wailua-Smith's Luau Resort (all Kauai)
Hawaiian CootFulica alai XX In practically all freshwater locations on Kauai and on Oahu's north shore.
Pacific Golden-PloverPluvialis fulva XX Can't miss this one during the winter months.
Black-necked StiltHimantopus mexicanus XX Endemic race. On Oahu at Amorient Aquafarm and Kualoa Regional Park. On Kauai at Hanalei N.W.R.
Wandering TattlerHeteroscelus incanus XX Fewer birds than during previous visits: singles at the end of the road west of Waialua (Oahu), Kualoa Regional Park (Oahu), and Poipu Beach (Kauai).
Bristle-thighed CurlewNumenius tahitiensis X  A lucky find! One single, distant bird watched through the scope as it came in for a landing at Amorient Aquafarm.
Ruddy TurnstoneArenaria interpres XX Flocks at Sand Island Park (Oahu) and Nawiliwili Beach Park (Lihue, Kauai)
Pomarine Jaeger*Stercorarius pomarinus X  One adult and one immature cruising off-shore at Sand Island Park (Honolulu).
Brown Noddy*Anous stolidus X  Feeding flock of ca. 25 noddies far off Laie Point (Oahu north shore). Field marks suggest this species, but Black Noddy cannot be ruled out with certainty.
Common White-TernGygis alba X  Up to 6 seen flying over the trees and over the ocean at Kapiolani Park, Honolulu, where it is heavily outnumbered by white pigeons.
Rock DoveColumba livia XX Abundant in Honolulu. On Kauai, mainly seen at Lihue-Nawiliwili.
Spotted DoveStreptopelia chinensis XX Abundant, although not quite as numerous as the next species.
Zebra DoveGeopelia striata XX Abundant just about everywhere, except highland forest.
ElepaioChasiempis sandwichensis  X Three birds seen in Kokee Forest (Kauai).
Red-vented BulbulPycnonotus cafer X  Very common on Oahu.
Red-whiskered BulbulPycnonotus jocosus X  At least 12 birds seen along Tantalus-Roundtop Drive in the hills above Honolulu.
White-rumped ShamaCopsychus malabaricus XX On Oahu, only seen along Tantalus-Roundtop Drive. On Kauai, various locations, including our hotel's backyard.
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush*Garrulax pectoralis  XOne bird seen in Huleia Stream Valley (Kauai).
Melodious Laughingthrush (Hwamei)Garrulax canorus  XSeveral birds in Huleia Stream Valley and near lighthouse at the entrance to Lihue Bay (behind the Kauai Marriott Resort).
Red-billed LeiothrixLeiothrix lutea X  One bird observed singing at Puu Ualakaa St.P. (Tantalus Drive, Honolulu). This species is said to be rather uncommon on Oahu.
Common MynaAcridotheres tristis XX Abundant, can't miss.
Northern MockingbirdMimus polyglottos  X Three birds along highway on Kauai's southwest shore; also two near Kauai Marriott Resort in Lihue and one bird along Waimea Canyon Road.
Japanese White-eyeZosterops japonicus XX Omnipresent in trees and shrubs, all islands.
Red-crested CardinalParoaria coronata XX Common on both islands.
Northern CardinalCardinalis cardinalis XX Common on both islands, although not quite as conspicuous as the previous species.
Western MeadowlarkSturnella neglecta  X Heard various times along road in fields (even sugarcane). Finally seen well near the Kauai Marriott Resort in Lihue.
House FinchCarpodacus mexicanus XX Common in parks and gardens, even seen in Kokee Forest.
Yellow-fronted CanarySerinus mozambicus X  Common in Honolulu's Kapiolani Park, but local elsewhere in Oahu. Not seen in Kauai.
Oahu Amakihi*Hemignathus flavus X  One or two birds feeding with White-eyes at Puu Ualakaa St.P. (Tantalus Drive, Honolulu).
Kauai Amakihi*Hemignathus kauaiensis  X One bark-gleaning bird observed well along Puu Ka Ohelo (Berry Flat) Trail (Kokee Forest, Kauai).
Anianiau*Hemignathus parvus  X One bird observed well along Puu Ka Ohelo (Berry Flat) Trail (Kokee Forest, Kauai).
Akekee*Loxops caerulirostris  X Poor but diagonistic view of one bird along Pihea Ridge Trail (Kokee Forest, Kauai).
IiwiVestiaria coccinea  X Poor views of several birds along Pihea Ridge Trail and Mohihi Road, where diagnostic "rusty-hinge" call was also heard (Kokee Forest, Kauai).
ApapaneHimatione sanguinea  X Common and conspicuous in Kokee Forest, esp. along Pihea Ridge.
House SparrowPasser domesticus XX Common around settlements.
Common WaxbillEstrilda astrild XX 4 birds seen at Kualoa Regional Park (Oahu north shore).
Nutmeg MannikinLonchura punctulata XX Two birds at Kapiolani Park, Honolulu. On Kauai, seen sporadically, e.g. along road to Kilauea Lighthouse, Sugar Cane fields near Lihue, and along trail to Waita Reservoir near Koloa (The reservoir is now completely fenced off and very clearly off-limits!).
Chestnut Mannikin*Lonchura malacca XX Two birds in the Pearl Harbor area near Ewa (Oahu). Various numbers almost daily at Kalapai Beach Park (Lihue). Often seen in flight in sugar cane fields near Lihue and elsewhere.
Java SparrowPadda oryzivora XX Fairly common, at times numerous, in parks and on lawns. Both islands.
   3541Total: 51 species

Birding Locations - Oahu and Kauai

Most of the birding locations are described in H. D. Pratt, Enjoying Birds in Hawaii (1993), Mutual Publishing, Honolulu. Numbers below refer to sites listed in this book. On Oahu, I had a car for 24 hours, which I used for a trip to Sand Island Park - Pearl Harbor - Wailua - along the north shore to Kane'ohe and back to Waikiki. The next morning I drove up Tantalus Drive before I had to return the car. On Kauai, I had a rental car the entire week but was usually accompanied by non-birding family members.



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This page served by Urs Geiser;; January 4, 2001 (modified October 31, 2001)