A Field Guides Birding Tours Report


March 25-April 3, 2022 with Chris Benesh & Mandy Talpas guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
A perennial favorite of Hawaii tourgoers, the flashy Iiwi, with its amazing decurved bill and otherworldly songs, was a wonderful treat of our visit to the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

March 2022 marked the Field Guides return to Hawaii after a three year absence and was our first Hawaii tour to offer the guiding expertise of Mandy Talpas. Mandy's extensive background working with Hawaii’s bird species and cultural knowledge added a great deal to the tour.

Hawaii is a challenging place to visit. It features some fabulous pelagic bird species, as well as a number of unique Hawaiian honeycreepers, all descendants from early finch colonists that somehow managed to make it out to the newly forming volcanic islands. Over time, these pioneers radiated into some truly spectacular and diverse species. Sadly, this has been followed in recent times with the well-known introduction of mosquitos, bringing with them avian malaria and avian flu. The warming climate has driven the malaria-sensitive species higher into the mountains, causing problems for species on Kauai which have run out of mosquito-free refugia. Mammalian introductions like rats, cats, and mongoose have further hammered some of the bird life. The rate of loss is alarming in some instances. The Akekee, last seen on our 2014 tour, remains only in the least accessible depths of the Alakai Swamp. Sadly, the Palila proved elusive for the first time on a Field Guides tour and Mandy commented on how drastically its population had slipped in the past couple of years.

Thankfully, all is not doom and gloom. Hawaii remains a wonderful archipelago to visit, and the remaining Drepanid honeycreepers are delightful! We managed to see all three of the amakihis, including the declining Kauai Amakihi. But it was hard to beat the splendid mix of them at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, where IIwi and Apapanes serenaded us with their etherial and otherworldly songs. Toss in the colorful orange flash of Hawaii Akepa, the endearing Hawaii Elepaio, and the Omao, the only of Hawaii’s thrushes to remain relatively common, and it was a magical experience.

A lot of non-passerines were highlights on the tour. Spending time at the Kilauea Lighthouse overlook was magical with a mix of seabirds coming to and from nesting sites while others prospected over the cliffs. As this was happening, Humpback Whales were hanging out just off shore. Our brief visit with the Laysan Albatross family in Princeville gave us the rare opportunity to be up close with members of this highly pelagic group. Of course the pelagic trip was the culmination of Hawaii’s greatness as a seabirding destination! Our trip out of Kona scored a nice mix of pelagics with memorable encounters with Hawaiian and Bulwer’s petrels, along with the regulars, and quite a show of boobies bobbing around on the fishing buoy.

Of course, what made this trip more than anything else was the great camaraderie of the group. It was great to see some longtime friends and to make some new ones. And it was a treat to see the islands through Mandy’s keen eyes as well! Thanks also to Reg David, a longtime researcher specializing in Hawaiian birds for his wonderful historical insights into the birdlife of the islands. Hoping all are well and I look forward to future shared experiences!

—Chris Benesh

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

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

CACKLING GOOSE (Branta hutchinsii)

A lone bird with a gimpy leg was present with the Nene at the Princeville Makai Golf Course.

HAWAIIAN GOOSE (Branta sandvicensis) [E]

Odd that Nene has not been adopted as its official name since in many other cases, there has been a move to adopt Hawaiian names.

Field Guides Birding Tours
The Hawaiian Goose, better known as Nene, has made an amazing comeback from near extinction. It is the only surviving member of a lineage of several remarkable goose species, one of which was nearly five times more massive! Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

NORTHERN SHOVELER (Spatula clypeata)

EURASIAN WIGEON (Mareca penelope)

A lone male was present on Kauai at the Kawaiele Wetlands. This species is a rare visitor to the islands.

HAWAIIAN DUCK (Anas wyvilliana) [E]

Sadly this species is subject to hybridization with introduced Mallards. We saw at least one such individual with the Hawaiian Ducks on Kauai.

MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)

Odontophoridae (New World Quail)

CALIFORNIA QUAIL (Callipepla californica) [I]

Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)

WILD TURKEY (Meleagris gallopavo) [I]

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This composite features two of Hawaii's endemic waterbirds. This pair of Hawaiian Ducks was seen at Hanalai NWR (photo Chris Benesh) and a Hawaiian Coot photographed by Jay Gilliam on Oahu.

RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]

KALIJ PHEASANT (Lophura leucomelanos) [I]

Well seen on the Big Island.

RED JUNGLEFOWL (Gallus gallus) [I]

GRAY FRANCOLIN (Ortygornis pondicerianus) [I]

Seen at the Waikaloa Skatepark and briefly as we were boarding the boat for our pelagic.

BLACK FRANCOLIN (Francolinus francolinus) [I]

After hearing a few, we finally connected with this species along the Saddle Road near the cement plant.

CHUKAR (Alectoris chukar) [I]

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This spectacular Kalij Pheasant was photographed by Jay Gilliam at the Hakalau Forest NWR. This species is native to southern Asia.

ERCKEL'S FRANCOLIN (Pternistis erckelii) [I]

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

SPOTTED DOVE (Streptopelia chinensis) [I]

ZEBRA DOVE (Geopelia striata) [I]

Pteroclidae (Sandgrouse)


Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

COMMON GALLINULE (HAWAIIAN) (Gallinula galeata sandvicensis) [E]

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another localized and striking introduced species is the Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse. Its native range extends from west Africa east through India. This male was one of several seen near Kona. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

HAWAIIAN COOT (Fulica alai) [E]

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (HAWAIIAN) (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) [E]

Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)


Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

BRISTLE-THIGHED CURLEW (Numenius tahitiensis)

RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)

SANDERLING (Calidris alba)

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We had some spendid views of Bristle-thighed Curlew on the north side of Oahu at the Kahuku Golf Course. They were a welcome sight for those who had searched and missed this species on its breeding grounds in Alaska. The bristles on this individual were particularly impressive. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.


Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL (Larus glaucescens)

A grungy immature bird was spotted flying along the coast as we arrived at the Kahuku Golf Course.

BROWN NODDY (Anous stolidus)

WHITE TERN (Gygis alba)

These elegant tree-nesting birds were a treat at Kapiolani Park. Others were seen at sea.

SOOTY TERN (Onychoprion fuscatus)

Great looks of this species on the pelagic trip, as well as more distant birds seen from shore on Oahu.

Phaethontidae (Tropicbirds)


The smaller of the two species we encountered, this one showed well for us at the Kilauea Lighthouse. We also had good looks at a loafing bird on the pelagic.

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The southeast coast of Oahu provided terrific viewing oportunites for Red-tailed Tropicbirds, such as this one captured by Jay Gilliam.

RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon rubricauda)

Great looks at the species on Oahu including birds on a nest.

Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)

LAYSAN ALBATROSS (Phoebastria immutabilis)

Unforgettable time spent with a family in Princeville, and a few more seen on the wing.

BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS (Phoebastria nigripes)

One of these was flying past us on the north side of Oahu. Mandy explained that it was likely a bird that had been translocated to this area as a chick to imprint on a new breeding location.

Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)

MOTTLED PETREL (Pterodroma inexpectata)

One put in a quick appearance on the pelagic trip that was noted by several.

HAWAIIAN PETREL (Pterodroma sandwichensis) [E]

Several really good views of this endemic species.

BULWER'S PETREL (Bulweria bulwerii)

A few good looks at this distinctive, dark petrel on our pelagic trip. I was struck by its peculiar flight style, alternating between low, sustained skimming flight and then much higher arching flight.

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We spent some quality time with this Laysan Albatross family on Kauai in Princeville. This adorable chick was photographed by Jeanette Shores.


SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea)

NEWELL'S SHEARWATER (Puffinus newelli) [E]

Seen by Reg and perhaps a few others though gone in an instant.

Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)


Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)

MASKED BOOBY (Sula dactylatra)

BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)

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A couple of the highlights on our pelagic trip out of Kona included Hawaiian Petrel (left) and Wedge-tailed Shearwater (right), both photographed by guide Chris Benesh.


Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

HAWAIIAN HAWK (Buteo solitarius) [E]

Bob pulled out an eleventh hour save on this species, spotting a soaring bird along Kaloko Drive east of Kona.

Strigidae (Owls)

SHORT-EARED OWL (HAWAIIAN) (Asio flammeus sandwichensis)

Some nice studies of this endemic subspecies on the Big Island.

Psittaculidae (Old World Parrots)

ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri) [I]

Great views of this species at Kapiolani Park.

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We had a few memorable encounters with boobies on each of the islands. At left is the Masked Booby that shot past us on Oahu and at right, one of the many Red-footed Boobies nesting at the Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai. Photos by guide Chris Benesh.

ROSY-FACED LOVEBIRD (Agapornis roseicollis) [I]

Rather washed out looking birds near Kona.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

RED-MASKED PARAKEET (Psittacara erythrogenys) [I]

A few seen flying around in the hills above Kona near the end of the tour.

Monarchidae (Monarch Flycatchers)

HAWAII ELEPAIO (Chasiempis sandwichensis) [E]

Good views of this species on both of our days in the highlands.

KAUAI ELEPAIO (Chasiempis sclateri) [E]

Good studies of this species right at the carpark at Kokee State Park where there was a pair nesting! This species is noticeably grayer backed than the other two.

OAHU ELEPAIO (Chasiempis ibidis) [E]

Mandy took us to a spot in the southeast corner of Oahu where this charming species was holding territory. After a bit of patience, we had a nice encounter with a pair of birds.

Alaudidae (Larks)

EURASIAN SKYLARK (Alauda arvensis) [I]

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We also encountered both of these species hanging around this buoy west of Kona on our pelagic trip. Photo by Jeanette Shores.
Pycnonotidae (Bulbuls)

RED-VENTED BULBUL (Pycnonotus cafer) [I]

RED-WHISKERED BULBUL (Pycnonotus jocosus) [I]

Scotocercidae (Bush Warblers and Allies)

JAPANESE BUSH WARBLER (Horornis diphone) [I]

Zosteropidae (White-eyes, Yuhinas, and Allies)

WARBLING WHITE-EYE (Zosterops japonicus) [I]

Leiothrichidae (Laughingthrushes and Allies)

RED-BILLED LEIOTHRIX (Leiothrix lutea) [I]

Most eventually got good looks at this attractive introduction, despite its skulking habits. This species is an Asian native.

CHINESE HWAMEI (Garrulax canorus) [I]

Another skulking species that some saw well when it was briefly exposed at the Waimea Canyon overlook.

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Kapiolani Park proved to be a wonderful place to see many of the introduced species that populate the lowlands there, such as this Rose-ringed Parakeet captured by Jeanette Shores.


Seen by one or two on our morning quest for this species on Kauai.

Sturnidae (Starlings)

COMMON MYNA (Acridotheres tristis) [I]

Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus polyglottos) [I]

Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

OMAO (Myadestes obscurus) [E]

Well seen at Hakalau, this is the one species of Hawaii's thrushes that seems to have a stable population.

Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers)

WHITE-RUMPED SHAMA (Copsychus malabaricus) [I]

Estrildidae (Waxbills and Allies)

AFRICAN SILVERBILL (Euodice cantans) [I]

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We managed to see all three of Hawaii's extant Amakihis on the trip, with lots of Hawaii Amakihi (left). The Kauai Amakihi (right) is not faring so well, and thankfully Nancy Casper spotted one for us that was very cooperative! Photos by guide Chris Benesh.

JAVA SPARROW (Padda oryzivora) [I]

Kapiolani Park provided our best views of this species along with a few at Sandy's Beach.

SCALY-BREASTED MUNIA (Lonchura punctulata) [I]

CHESTNUT MUNIA (Lonchura atricapilla) [I]

COMMON WAXBILL (Estrilda astrild) [I]

RED AVADAVAT (Amandava amandava) [I]

Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)

HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]

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Another two of Hawaii's amazing native passerines appear here. At left is the Anianiau, a tiny nectivorous species found on Kauai. This is a drabber one, with the males being vibrant yellow. At right is the bright orange Hawaii Akepa, found on the big island and notable in being a cavity nesting species and possessing a crossed bill tip used to pry open leaf buds. Photos by guide Chris Benesh.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

PALILA (Loxioides bailleui) [E*]

APAPANE (Himatione sanguinea) [E]

A little overlooked, considering what a charming species it is, with an ethereal song and spunky personality. Great views on Kauai and the Big Island.

IIWI (Drepanis coccinea) [E]

This is about as iconic a bird as one could pick as being quintessential Native Hawaii.

AKIAPOLAAU (Hemignathus wilsoni) [E*]

ANIANIAU (Magumma parva) [E]

This little charmer proved to be a favorite at Kokee State Park.

HAWAII AMAKIHI (Chlorodrepanis virens) [E]

This species of amakihi is seemingly the best off of the three. We saw a number of them in the drier mamame forest as well as some at Hakalau.

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw a few cetaceans on the trip including the two species represented here. At top is the Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (photo by Jay Gilliam) and at bottom, the distinctive long beak of Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins (photo by Chris Benesh).

OAHU AMAKIHI (Chlorodrepanis flava) [E]

This was the first native land bird that we got under our belts in the mountains above Honolulu. The few we saw were quickly dashing between flowering trees.

KAUAI AMAKIHI (Chlorodrepanis stejnegeri) [E]

Sadly, this species seems to be in a steep decline, becoming difficult to see in recent years. Thankfully for us, Nancy spotted one sitting quietly in an ohia that allowed us to scope it at length.

HAWAII CREEPER (Loxops mana) [E]

Reg and Mandy remarked on how well this species was doing at the moment at Hakalau. Refreshing to see a native species having some success here thanks to the amazing efforts that went in to creating the habitat.

HAWAII AKEPA (Loxops coccineus) [E]

We had splendid views of this orange colored species at Hakalau NWR.

HOUSE FINCH (Haemorhous mexicanus) [I]

YELLOW-FRONTED CANARY (Crithagra mozambica) [I]

Field Guides Birding Tours
Another few random highlights from the trip: Clockwise from upper left: an Oahu Amakihi-eye view of Waikiki; the scenic Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai; A Kauai Red Junglefowl rooster crowing; and Mandy showing us the layout and destinations for our time on Oahu. Photos by Chris Benesh, Jeanette Shores, Jay Gilliam, and Lynn Glesne.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

WESTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella neglecta) [I]

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

NORTHERN CARDINAL (Cardinalis cardinalis) [I]

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

RED-CRESTED CARDINAL (Paroaria coronata) [I]

YELLOW-BILLED CARDINAL (Paroaria capitata) [I]

SAFFRON FINCH (Sicalis flaveola) [I]


SPINNER DOLPHIN (Stenella longirostris)

Some seen close to shore as we were setting off on our pelagic trip.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Jay Gilliam got this wonderful shot of a Bristle-thighed Curlew passing overhead.


A few pods of these were seen on our pelagic trip.

HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae)

SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE (Herpestes auropunctatus) [I]

AFRICAN WILD ASS (Equus asinus) [I]

WILD BOAR (Sus scrofa) [I]

DOMESTIC CATTLE (Bos taurus) [I]

Field Guides Birding Tours
We saw many wonderful skies on the Hawaii tour. This one comes from Kauai as we were setting off for dinner one evening. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.

DOMESTIC GOAT (Capra hircus) [I]

DOMESTIC SHEEP (Ovis aries) [I]


BROWN ANOLE (Anolis sagrei) [I]

GREEN ANOLE (CAROLINA ANOLE) (Anolis carolinensis) [I]

GREEN SEA TURTLE (Chelonia mydas)

One seen on the beach on Oahu seemed to be nearly or entirely dead. Its tracks suggesting it was attempting to return to the sea.

Totals for the tour: 91 bird taxa and 9 mammal taxa