Kauai’s hideouts for Hawaiian Honeycreepers

Bird-watchers in the Hawaiian island of Kauai should visit the Alaka’i Swamp, or nearby Koke’e State Park. This high-elevation rain forest is one of the wettest places on earth- bring a rain coat! – but it is also a good place to look for Hawaii’s incredible honeycreepers.

The Hawaiian Honeycreepers are only found in Hawaii. This special family may have descended from a single ancestor species, which landed on the newly-formed islands and diversified into 28 different species. These birds vary greatly in their bill shape, from the chunky bill of the Maui Parrotbill, to the long sickle-shaped bill of the bright-red I’iwi.

Many of the Alaka’i Swamp’s honeycreepers are threatened with extinction. These are the lucky ones- at least 23 species and subspecies of honeycreepers have already become extinct in the last two hundred years. More may have been lost 2,000 years earlier, when Polynesians first colonized the islands.

Humans contributed to these extinctions by clearing forests, and by introducing mammals to Hawaii that prey on the birds, like rats, cats, and the mongoose. Humans also brought feral pigs and rabbits, which destroy native vegetation needed by the birds.

The Alaka’i Swamp is the last refuge in Kauai for many of these honeycreepers. Once back in the lowlands, bird-watchers primarily see introduced bird species. Humans have brought 54 species to the islands which now successfully breed in the wild. In Kauai’s towns, you may see Mockingbirds from North America, Bulbuls from Asia, Mynas from India, White-eyes from Japan, and Red-crested Cardinals from South America, to name a few.