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A spectacular orange glow at the Kilauea Volcano in Volcano National Park on our evening visit there. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
Hawaii is a place of contradictions. Its forests are places of great beauty and its endemic honeycreepers are some of the most interesting examples of adaptive radiation of an ancestral finch in an island archipelago. These finches have evolved into highly specialized species like the spritely Apapane, the striking I’iwi, the Pine Grosbeak-like Palila, and perhaps the most specialized of the extant species, the ‘Akiapola’au, with its short, chisel like mandible and highly decurved maxilla. We saw a total of ten native Fringillids during our visit to the islands of Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii. Hawaii is also home to a great diversity of seabirds, from tiny Black Noddies to massive Laysan Albatrosses, and unsurpassed opportunities for up close experiences with tropicbirds, shearwaters, and boobies. And what a treat to see Bristle-thighed Curlews on their wintering grounds!
Looming in the background of any birder’s visit to the islands is the knowledge that Hawaii is also a place of mass avian extinction over the past several hundred years, with at least 23 species lost during that time from the three islands visited on our tour. Particularly haunting are the songs and photos recorded of the last Kauai O’o from 1987; recordings of the Kama’o, a large thrush found on Kauai and last seen in 1989; the Oahu 'Alauahio last documented in 1968 though tantalizing sightings occurred up until 1990; the spectacular scythe billed Kauai ‘Akialoa, lost from Kauai in 1969; and photos and recording of the yellow headed finch O’u lost in 1989. Sadly, a few more species are slipping away toward extinction as warming temperatures allow for avian malaria to creep higher into the mountains, and high energy storms and disease degrade the quality of the forests.
Despite the realities facing Hawaii, there is much to see and experience there. The geology alone is amazing. Testament to the power forces at work here, Volcano National Park and the Kilauea observation area we visited closed permanently following the major eruption that began on May 3rd. What a wondrous sight to see the bright orange glow of Kilauea disappear as it became shrouded in fog during our evening outing there. The spectacular Waimea Canyon on Kauai was also quite memorable.
Thanks to all of you for making the trip out to the islands with Dan and me. It was a great adventure! — Chris
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
The group celebrating the success of our Palila search on the Big Island. Photo by guide Dan Lane.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
SNOW GOOSE (Anser caerulescens)
CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii)
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
HAWAIIAN GOOSE (Branta sandvicensis) [E]
Three Nene go winging past us. This endemic goose has made a great comeback in recent years. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.
NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)
HAWAIIAN DUCK (Anas wyvilliana) [E]
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
LESSER SCAUP (Aythya affinis)
Odontophoridae (New World Quail)
CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Callipepla californica) [I]
One of the several Kalij Pheasants living on the Big Island. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
INDIAN PEAFOWL (Pavo cristatus) [I]
CHUKAR (Alectoris chukar) [I]
ERCKEL'S FRANCOLIN (Pternistis erckelii) [I]
BLACK FRANCOLIN (Francolinus francolinus) [I]
Erckel's Francolin was fairly widespread on the islands. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
GRAY FRANCOLIN (Francolinus pondicerianus) [I]
RED JUNGLEFOWL (Gallus gallus) [I]
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]
KALIJ PHEASANT (Lophura leucomelanos) [I]
WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo) [I]
A Laysan Albatross glides right past us at the Kilauea Lighthouse. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
LAYSAN ALBATROSS (Phoebastria immutabilis)
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
WEDGE-TAILED SHEARWATER (Ardenna pacifica)
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus)
RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon rubricauda)
This Wedge-tailed Shearwater was also seen flying around at the lighthouse. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
GREAT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata minor)
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)
RED-FOOTED BOOBY (Sula sula)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
A beautiful capture of a female Hawaiian Stilt. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
HAWAIIAN HAWK (Buteo solitarius) [E]
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
COMMON GALLINULE (HAWAIIAN) (Gallinula galeata sandvicensis) [E]
HAWAIIAN COOT (Fulica alai) [E]
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (HAWAIIAN) (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) [E]
How cute is a baby White Tern? This cute! Photo by guide Dan Lane.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER (Pluvialis fulva)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW (Numenius tahitiensis)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
WANDERING TATTLER (Tringa incana)
The tropicbirds at the Kilauea Lighthouse were amazing to watch. The most common one was the Red-tailed. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
LAUGHING GULL (Leucophaeus atricilla)
BLACK NODDY (MELANOGENYS) (Anous minutus melanogenys)
WHITE TERN (Gygis alba)
SOOTY TERN (Onychoprion fuscatus)
LEAST TERN (Sternula antillarum)
There were also a couple of White-tailed Tropicbird sightings here, though more were seen over highland canyons and craters. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
CHESTNUT-BELLIED SANDGROUSE (Pterocles exustus) [I]
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
SPOTTED DOVE (Streptopelia chinensis) [I]
ZEBRA DOVE (Geopelia striata) [I]
SHORT-EARED OWL (HAWAIIAN) (Asio flammeus sandwichensis)
After a lot of searching, Mary spotted this Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)
ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri) [I]
ROSY-FACED LOVEBIRD (Agapornis roseicollis) [I]
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
RED-MASKED PARAKEET (Psittacara erythrogenys)
Monarchidae (Monarch Flycatchers)
HAWAII ELEPAIO (MAUNA KEA) (Chasiempis sandwichensis bryani) [E]
HAWAII ELEPAIO (HILO COAST) (Chasiempis sandwichensis ridgwayi) [E]
A handsome Oahu Elepaio was a treat to see on the 'Aiea Trail. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
KAUAI ELEPAIO (Chasiempis sclateri) [E]
OAHU ELEPAIO (Chasiempis ibidis) [E]
EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis) [I]
RED-VENTED BULBUL (Pycnonotus cafer) [I]
RED-WHISKERED BULBUL (Pycnonotus jocosus) [I]
Also on the 'Aiea Trail was this Oahu Amakihi. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
Scotocercidae (Bush Warblers and Allies)
JAPANESE BUSH WARBLER (Horornis diphone) [I*]
Zosteropidae (White-eyes, Yuhinas, and Allies)
JAPANESE WHITE-EYE (Zosterops japonicus) [I]
Leiothrichidae (Laughingthrushes and Allies)
CHINESE HWAMEI (Garrulax canorus) [I*]
RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX (Leiothrix lutea) [I]
Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)
WHITE-RUMPED SHAMA (Copsychus malabaricus) [I]
The Big Island was home to another species of Amakihi, the Hawaiian. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
OMAO (Myadestes obscurus) [E]
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos) [I]
COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis) [I]
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
RED-CRESTED CARDINAL (Paroaria coronata) [I]
YELLOW-BILLED CARDINAL (Paroaria capitata) [I]
A stunning capture of this charismatic I'iwi on the Big Island. Photo by participant Scott Harvell.
SAFFRON FINCH (Sicalis flaveola) [I]
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis) [I]
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta) [I]
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
PALILA (Loxioides bailleui) [E]
APAPANE (Himatione sanguinea) [E]
This adult Apapane poses nicely near our lodge in Volcano National Park. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
IIWI (Drepanis coccinea) [E]
AKIAPOLAAU (Hemignathus wilsoni) [E]
ANIANIAU (Magumma parva) [E]
HAWAII AMAKIHI (Chlorodrepanis virens) [E]
OAHU AMAKIHI (Chlorodrepanis flava) [E]
Looking a bit like a Pine Grosbeak, one of the Palila seen on the Big Island. Photo by participant Doug Clarke.
KAUAI AMAKIHI (Chlorodrepanis stejnegeri) [E]
HAWAII CREEPER (Loxops mana) [E]
HAWAII AKEPA (Loxops coccineus) [E]
HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [I]
YELLOW-FRONTED CANARY (Crithagra mozambica) [I]
One of the several O'mao that showed well on the Big Island. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)
COMMON WAXBILL (Estrilda astrild) [I]
RED AVADAVAT (Amandava amandava) [I]
AFRICAN SILVERBILL (Euodice cantans) [I]
SCALY-BREASTED MUNIA (Lonchura punctulata) [I]
A familiar sight in the lowlands, this Common Waxbill showed well for us on Oahu. Photo by guide Dan Lane.
CHESTNUT MUNIA (Lonchura atricapilla) [I]
JAVA SPARROW (Lonchura oryzivora) [I]
HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae)
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]
WILD BOAR (Sus scrofa) [I]
The 'Aiea Trail on Oahu was a great spot for the Oahu Amakihi and Elepaio. Photo by guide Dan Lane.
DOMESTIC CATTLE (Bos taurus) [I]
DOMESTIC GOAT (Capra hircus) [I]
DOMESTIC SHEEP (Ovis aries) [I]
BROWN ANOLE (Anolis sagrei) [I]
Sunset on Kauai! Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
GREEN SEA TURTLE (Chelonia mydas)
There were a few additional critters seen that did not make it into the main list. These included:
Gold Dust Day Gecko (Phelsuma laticauda)
Jackson's Chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii)
Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus)
A few of us saw the local Lesser Brown Scorpion (Isometrus maculatus).
Also, there were quite a few amazing fishes hanging out behind our hotel in Kona that a few folks saw on the final morning. These included Great Barracuda and Peppered Moray among others. We even had two species of crab, the Horned Ghost Crab and the Thin-shelled Rock Crab!
Totals for the tour: 89 bird taxa and 6 mammal taxa