Stunning Scenery and Marvelous Birdlife in Hawaii

Hawaii is the southern most state in the USA and consists of a series of islands, reefs and shoals located in the central Pacific Ocean. The eight main islands of Hawaii cover an area of 6,425 square miles of land that is rich in diverse plant, animal and birdlife. Add to this the blue-green ocean, white sandy beaches, temperate climate and hospitable people, and it is easy to see why many birding enthusiasts agree that bird watching in exotic Hawaii is a very rewarding experience.

The impressive geological features of Hawaii are mainly as a result of ancient volcanic eruptions and subsequent erosion by rain, wind and the sea. Due to human settlements and farming activity it is believed that the Hawaii we see today is very different from what is was when the Polynesians arrived in about 800 AD. Despite the negative impact that humans tend to have on the environment, there are a variety of habitats supporting exciting birdlife, including a number of endemic species. Hawaii has 296 recorded bird species in 40 families with 33 endemic species. Birds can be found from the mountain-tops to the sandy beaches and in both rain-forest and dry-forest areas. Most bird species in Hawaii are accessible to bird watching activity and are likely to be spotted if birders exercise a little patience – a quality that all bird-watchers seem to possess.

Two of the more popular birding destinations in Hawaii are the distinctly different environments of the rain-forest and the dry-forest areas. Tour operators in Hawaii offer bird watching trips through both of these habitats. The trip to the rain-forest will require that birders hike along some uneven and rocky terrain as they cross fascinating lava flows which resulted from volcanic eruptions that took place in 1855 and 1881. Intrepid hikers will be richly rewarded with sightings of i’iwi, apapane, amakihi, elepaio, olomao and possibly the elusive and endangered akiapolaau with its unique multi-purpose beak. Found only in Hawaii, this member of the honeycreeper family uses its long curved upper bill to deftly pick insect larvae out of trees, making a tapping noise very similar to that of a woodpecker in its quest for food.

The dry-forest adventure through the mamane-naio forest is a little less strenuous and one of the highlights of this trip is the possibility of spotting the critically threatened palila, a bird which feeds almost exclusively on the mamane tree’s green pods. Other endemic species to look out for in the dry-forest habitat include the Hawaii amakihi and the Hawaii elepaio, which is noted for the striking white feathering on its head.

The Hawaii Audubon Society is active in promoting community values in an effort to protect and restore native ecosystems and, through education, science and advocacy, conserve Hawaii’s natural resources. With this objective in mind, they are spearheading ongoing improvements at a number of nature trails. These initiatives are to the benefit of local communities, as well as birders who choose to go bird watching in Hawaii.