ARTICLES ON HAWAIIAN
BIRDS AND BIRDWATCHING AND OTHER
Hawai'i Birding Hotspots No. 6 - Aimakapa Pond, Hawai'i
Aimakapa is an ancient fishpond and was incorporated into the Kaloko-Honokohua National Historical Park in the early 1980's, although this park is not yet developed.
The Pond has hosted many rarities and migrants over the years, as well as providing habitat for endemic Stilts and Coots. It is also the only known Hawaiian breeding site of Pied-billed Grebe, although the numbers nesting has dropped quite considerably. Blue-winged Teal also has nested here, but the numbers are small and a permanent population of nesting birds does not currently seem to be established.
The Pied-billed Grebe is usually a rare fall and winter visitor to the Hawaiian Islands, but during the late twentieth century a few pairs took up residence at Aimakapa Pond and a small population of about fifteen birds became established. The small breeding colony survived for a few years, but unfortunately, like the other coloniser the Blue-winged Teal the numbers fell and by the year 2000 no breeding birds were left. The odd single bird can still be seen at Aimakapa, but they tend to be more erratic in their appearances and tend to wander to other ponds in the area and even probably to other islands. Pied-billed Grebe Photo © John Bushell.
As would be expected, seabirds do not play a very prominent role at the pond. There are two reasons for this, firstly not many seabirds occur this far down the island-chain and secondly there is not really any habitat at Aimakapa for them. Occasional Frigatebirds, Boobies or Sooty Terns may be observed and very rarely an Albatross may be seen offshore, but for seabirds other locations are required.
Night Herons and Cattle Egrets are common residents of the pond and surrounding areas and these are sometimes joined by rarer migrants and vagrants, which have included Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Snowy Egret and White-faced Ibis. The marshy edges and overhanging vegetation make this an ideal location for Herons and Egrets and they are always worth a second look, perhaps the first Main Island Intermediate Egret will be found here.
Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler are regular in winter in quite considerable numbers and other regular migrant waterfowl include Greater and Lesser Scaup, Tufted Duck, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Mallard, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal and Bufflehead. Scarcer species have included Garganey, Redhead, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon and Canvasback.
Geese occasionally turn up and Canada, Brent and Snow Geese have been recorded, although only the former two could be considered regular visitors.
In the 1980's and 1990's a few pairs of Blue-winged Teal bred, which at the time was only one of two known natural, recent records of colonization in the Islands (the other being Pied-billed Grebe, Fulvous Whistling Duck may not have been a natural colonization). Although the population was never large it was a remarkable ornithological event and hopes were high that the species may gain a foothold in the Islands as a breeding species, however in the last few years of the twentieth century the numbers dwindled and the species no longer breeds. The species can still be encountered at Aimakapa Pond though, as a winter visitor in small numbers (usually a couple a year).
Osprey are sometimes seen hunting for fish over the pond and Hawaiian Owl can be seen quartering the nearby scrubby areas. Peregrine Falcons have been recorded on a few occasions, but are not regular visitors.
Endemic Hawaiian Coots nest at the pond and there is always a large number present. The individuals here are often quite "friendly" and good photographic opportunities often exist. Birds nest in the grassy areas around the pond and so to avoid accidental nest trampling it is best to remain viewing from the beach area, where almost all the pond can be viewed. American Coot has been reported from here in the past and a check of all Coots here is certainly worth the effort, just in case.
Although the water is sometimes too deep on the whole for shorebirds
the edges often hold Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Wandering Tattler and Pacific Golden Plover which
are all generally quite common. Scarcer migrants over the years have included Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers, Spotted,
Pectoral, Sharp-tailed, Least and Western Sandpipers and Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, to name a few.
It is always worth checking the reef on the beach on the way to the pond as it often holds migrant shorebirds, and amongst the Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers and Sanderling there may be something a bit rarer, such as Red-necked Stint or Gray-tailed Tattler, both of which have been sighted here in recent years.
Hawaiian Stilts are an ever-increasing sight at Aimakapa, with numbers quite quickly increasing from just a few birds in the 1970's to about 200 on the Kona coast in the early twenty-first century. Up to 150 birds may be present at the pond, although they can easily flush and will often fly off to the nearby sewage treatment plant. A few nest every year, but with the presence of rats and mongoose in the area, successfully fledging a chick is quite an achievement.
Gulls and Terns are recorded annually and species recorded include Glaucous-winged, Laughing, Franklin's, Bonaparte's, Ring-billed, Herring and Western Gulls and Common, Arctic, Little/Least and Caspian Terns.
In the scrubby areas on the way to the pond there are several
introduced species to keep an eye out for and include Saffron Finch, Yellow-billed
Cardinal, African Silverbill
(left) and Gray Francolin.
Early morning and evening are probably the best times to visit as the area will have been less disturbed. The composition of species at the pond changes quite frequently as well and so it is a good idea to make as many trips as possible during a visit to the Big Island.
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Useful information about Aimakapa Pond.
|LOCATION||Located on the Kona side a short distance to the South of Keahole airport and just North
of the Honokohau Boat harbor.
Follow signs to the boat Harbor and park sensibly at the North side of the parking lot and walk to the Northern edge of the entrance road by the boat storage area.
|Cross over the low stone wall here (there are many gaps) and walk through the scrub and small Kiawe wood until you come out on the beach. There is a small restroom area inside the Kiawe wood. Once you reach the beach walk North for a short while until you see the pond on your right, there are several spots to view different areas of the pond.|
|OPENING TIMES||Unlimited Access to beach side of pond.|
|ENTRANCE FEE||None Payable.|
|GUIDED HIKES||None specifically for the site.||Some tour companies include this in their schedule.|
|BIRD SPECIES OBSERVED||At least 115 species (approximate).||c.45 species recorded annually, c.26 breeding annually.|
|MARINE ANIMALS OBSERVED||Green Sea Turtle regularly seen on the beaches here.||Occasional Dolphins or Whales offshore.|
|USEFUL READING||Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific by H.D. Pratt et al.
Hawaii's Birds by The Hawaii Audubon Society
Seabirds of Hawaii by Craig Harrison
Pied-billed Grebe, Aimakapa Pond, Hawai'i, February 1998.
Christian Melgar. Worthing, West Sussex, UK. 2002.