WHERE TO WATCH BIRDS IN HAWAI'I -
Maui was the first major resort area outside Waikiki and has become the most visited neighbor Island. The Island is the second largest Hawaiian Island and was formed from two separate volcanoes. Lava flows and soil erosion formed the isthmus between the two areas and linked them to form one island, as can be seen today.
The Eastern side of Maui is the larger area and is geologically the youngest and is
dominated by Haleakala which reaches 10,023 feet at its highest. The volcano is dormant and is the largest volcano
Crater in the World, which contains many cinder cones and vents. Haleakala has not erupted since 1790.
The Western side of Maui is dominated by the West Maui Mountains which reach a peak height of 5778 feet at Puu Kukui.
The windward sides of both of the areas on Maui are cut with large ravines and receive the bulk of the rainfall, and the leeward sides are mostly made up of sandy beaches and low-lying rolling hills. The total area of Maui is 728 square miles.
Several reserves and refuges are on Maui and both the lowlands and mountainous areas
provide good birding opportunities. The lowland ponds and marshes provide home to endemic Hawaiian Stilts and Coots
and provide much appreciated habitat to tired and over-wintering migrants.
The Mountainous forest areas are home to some of the World's rarest bird species such as Poo'uli, Akohekohe and Maui Parrotbill, although few birders are likely to see the first species as only three birds were known to survive in 2000, in an area of forest where there is strictly no access.
The endemic Silversword, a relation of the Sunflower, can be seen near the summit of Haleakala and Nene are still present in reasonably good numbers here too.
Sunrise at Haleakala Crater is one of Hawai'i's most popular attractions and is certainly an event worth experiencing at least once. As the sun rises above the cloud and Crater rim, shafts of light come searing across the Crater, which at first appears to be only a short distance away, but as the sun rises and the light becomes clearer it becomes apparent that the Crater walls which just a few moments before seemed so close are actually over 7 miles away!
Maui is also a popular Island to go Whale watching, with most tours based in Lahaina. Humpback Whales come to give birth and mate in Hawaiian Waters between October and May, before heading back to Alaska to feed (they do not feed whilst in Hawaiian waters).
Boat trips will often produce Spinner Dolphins and Green Sea Turtles as well as Whales and occasionally seabirds will be seen, although most tour boats remain in the shallow waters preferred by the Whales, rather than venturing into the deeper water where more seabirds would be sighted.
The following sites are dealt with below:
1). Kanaha Pond
2). Kealia Pond NWR
3). Hosmer Grove
4). Haleakala National Park
5). Waikomoi Preserve
6). Polipoli Springs State recreation Area
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KANAHA POND STATE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Open All Year. Some areas no access.
No Entrance Fee.
Link: Hawai'i's Birding Hotspots - Kanaha Pond State Waterbird Sanctuary
Accessed from the road between the airport and Kahului. The pond is on the seaward side of the Hana Highway (Rte 32 and 396). A small concrete birdwatching hide (view from hide pictured right) is situated by the main gate and parking lot, and gives views across most of the pond. the best areas for observing shorebirds are the marshy areas and small pools either side of the parking lot and the track to the bird shelter. Also a few pools and marshy areas are visible further along the fence line towards the airport and these are good spots to see Sandpipers and Stints, however they are not observable from the main parking lot or shelter. Some new areas of habitat have been created in 2002 by DOFAW staff at Kanaha. An area in the large pond where it appears to have been worked on by DOFAW
staff has been used extensively by stilts, coots, shorebirds and ducks. Over the past two years or so the wetlands and sand
dunes over a mile long stretch at Kanaha Beach along Amala Road in Kahului have been restored. Some of the areas with ephemeral wetlands that were previously dominated by pluchea and kiawe have been cleaned up and are now seasonally visited by wetland and shore birds and now offer many opportunities to view birds, as well as native plants. The three main areas that offer the best birding are the treatment plant pond, the canal, and the phase II wetlands.
TREATMENT PLANT POND: The sewage treatment pond along Amala Road. Turn makai on the first road past the
treatment plant. Viewing isn't great (you have to peer through chain link), but Gulls, lots of Hawaiian Stilts, Night Heron and various shorebirds have been seen from here.
CANAL -- (BRIDGE): The canal under the bridge on Amala Road has water year round and is a breeding site for Hawaiian Stilts, Hawaiian Ducks and Hawaiian Coots.
PHASE II WETLANDS -- (4 CONCRETE BUILDINGS): Drive down Amala Road until you see the four concrete buildings on the makai side, between the bridge and the intersection to the airport. There is a sand road that goes to the ocean, the wetlands on either side of that sand road provide good birding when the wetlands are inundated.
Hawaiian Stilt (below right) and Hawaiian Coot are present in good numbers as well as Night Herons and a growing population of Cattle Egrets.
Migrants regularly turn up and often include Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup and sometimes Eurasian Wigeon, and have also included several rarities.
Shorebirds have included Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pectoral, Sharp-tailed and Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers and in 2000 the State's first confirmed record of Black-tailed Godwit.
Ospreys are often, though not annually recorded at this site and are often seen perched in trees at the rear of the ponds, winter is best for this species.
Most of the expected common introduced species can be seen here too, such as Waxbills, although there are better sites on Maui to look for these species. This is a very underwatched site and no doubt many species go by unnoticed.
Best Time To Visit: Fall and Winter
|2). KEALIA POND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Some of refuge open outside of nesting season, but most of area viewable from the road. Refuge kiosk open in middle of refuge, follow signs on site. No Entrance Fee.
Link: Kealia National Wildlife Refuge
Link: U.S. FWS Refuge checklists
Link: Refuge Directions
Link: Hawai'i's Birding Hotspots - Kealia Pond NWR
Located at the Southern end of the central Maui isthmus and accessed from North Kihei Road between Kihei and the Wailuku - Lahaina Road. Refuge kiosk open out of nesting season, follow on site signs. In 2003/04 a $2.6 million, 2,200 foot boardwalk for nature lovers was constructed to enjoy a new option for viewing the wildlife at Kealia Pond. The completed project has an entry area, bridge over the Kealia Pond outlet and three kiosks with interpretive displays about ecology, the biology of wetlands, endangered birds found in the refuge, turtles and humpback whales. The boardwalk overlooks Ma'alaea Bay and gives people another vantage point to see humpback whales.
Ma'alaea Flats are located on the seaward side of the road and is often good for migrant Shorebirds such as Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers, as well as smaller Sandpipers and Stints (Peeps). Large numbers of Hawaiian Stilts and Pacific Golden Plovers are usually present, but can depend on the water levels.
The Main Pond is located on the opposite side of the road a little further along if approached from the North end. Many Hawaiian Coots and Hawaiian Stilts reside at the pond and it has one of the largest populations in the State of the latter.
The pond has an extensive list of migrants and vagrants to its name and during the winter months it usually has sizable numbers of Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler as well as smaller numbers of Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup and American Wigeon. Scarcer species often include Eurasian Wigeon, Garganey, Greater Scaup, Canvasback and Redhead and there is always the chance of something rarer, such as Common Merganser which has occurred in the past.
As well as the resident Night Herons and Cattle Egrets, species such as Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Snowy Egret have been recorded.
Many Shorebirds have been recorded at Kealia and have regularly included Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plovers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Pectoral, Least and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. Scarcer and rare species have included Ruff (below right), Red-necked Stint, Whimbrel, Western Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher and Black-tailed Godwit.
Gulls and Terns regularly occur at the pond and often remain for some time and have included Caspian, Common and Least Terns. Ospreys are seen here almost annually and it is probably the best location in Hawaii to see this species.
Introduced Estrildids can often be seen in the dry grasses along the road and beach.
Kealia Pond is one of Hawai'i's most prolific migrant "traps" where almost any species could, and often does, turn up.
Best Time To Visit: All Year, but especially Fall and Winter
Open All Year. No Entrance Fee. Campground & Parking Lot.
Contact Park staff for camping arrangements.
Link: Hawai'i's Birding Hotspots - Hosmer Grove
Signposted off the main Haleakala Road (Rte 378), about three-quarters of a mile before Park Headquarters.
Hosmer Grove is an area of mainly exotic trees planted at the start of the 20th Century (1910) to reforest the area, it is a pity that they did not think to use native trees, although it seems to affect the birds less than one might expect and it is commonplace to see Maui Creeper and 'Apapane foraging amongst the non-native trees.
The forested area at Hosmer Grove is probably the easiest place to observe Maui Creeper (right), which can be easily seen around the parking lot and even hopping around on the ground!
The fairly short trail will also produce good views of I'iwi, 'Apapane, Common 'Amakihi and introduced species such as Hwamei, Japanese Whiteeye, Northern Cardinal and Red-billed Leiothrix. Both Maui Parrotbill and 'Akohe'kohe (Crested Honeycreeper) have been seen here but these sightings are extremely rare and should not be considered as a likely event.
Pueo or Hawaiian Short-eared Owl can regularly be seen floating over the area near the entrance road and soaring high above the forest.
Best Time To Visit: All Year
HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
Open All Year. Entrance Fee, some Concessions.
No Food or Drink available in the Park.
Weather Information 1 808 871 5054
Park Information 1 808 572 7749
Link: USGS at Haleakala
Link: Haleakala National Park
Link: Nature Conservancy Hawaii
Link: Haleakala visitor site
For Information on hikes etc. Contact:
The Superintendent, Haleakala NP, PO Box 369
Manawao, HI 96768
The undoubted "centerpiece" of Maui is Haleakala Crater. It is the World's largest dormant volcano and is 7.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide and last erupted 200 years ago.
Haleakala translates as the "House of the Sun" and is thought to be an energy vortex - a natural power point for magnetic and cosmic forces. At its highest Haleakala was probably 12,000 feet high but it has been eroded into first two and now one large valley. The floor of the Crater is littered with Cinder Cones.
The Park is well sign-posted from the lowlands of Maui and is not difficult to find, after all it dominates the Island. The road climbing to the summit is apparently the steepest ascending paved road in the World.
Haleakala is one of America oldest National Parks and was established in 1916 as part of Hawaii NP, and was later divided into Hawaii Volcanoes and Haleakala NP's.
On the way up Skylarks, Chukar and Gray and Black Francolins are often easy to see along the road, as are Hawaiian Owls and Ring-necked Pheasants. A quick stop by the side of the road to listen will usually reveal the songs of the Skylarks and the distant echoes of male Francolins. In the wooded areas on the way up there are usually Red-billed Leiothrix, Northern Cardinal and Hwamei.
In the scrub zone Common 'Amakihi, 'Apapane and Short-eared Owls can be seen alongside the endemic Silversword, a relation of the Sunflower. At the very summit it is a good place to look for Chukar and at night during April to September Hawaiian Petrels (right), although they are often hard to see as they come and go in the dark, it is usually possible to hear them and catch the odd glint of one in the moonlight.
Nene can often be seen near the Park Headquarters, and there are usually a few Northern Mockingbirds hanging around too.
The Crater is one of the most amazing spectacles on Earth and may sometimes turn out to be a more exciting highlight than the birdlife!
Best Time To Visit: All Year, but Summer for Hawaiian Petrel sightings.
Restricted Access only available on TNC guided Hikes.
Telephone Park Headquarters for details of trips: 1 808 572 7749
Link: The Nature Conservancy Hawaii
Link: Hawai'i's Birding Hotspots - Waikamoi Preserve
Accessed via closed trail from Hosmer Grove. No Access is permitted except with a TNC hike leader or other authorised leader. Please do not trespass as habitat is under severe threat and it is easy to hike in noxious weeds and to disturb nesting birds.
Free afternoon guided walks to Waikomoi Preserve boardwalk (donation required) take place on the third Sunday of each month and must be booked no more than one week in advance by calling the National Park Service on (808) 572-4400. Private visits to the boardwalk can be arranged but are expensive; $100 per person entrance fee payable by non-refundable advance cheque to TNC, plus professional bird guide's fee, which depends on group size but is up to $100 per person.
Whereas nearby areas may be more notable for their geology than their birdlife, Waikomoi is definitely noteworthy for its birds and so it is well worth planning ahead to be able to join one of the Nature Conservancy's guided hikes.
'Akohe'kohe (Crested Honeycreeper) (right), Maui Parrotbill, Maui Creeper, I'iwi , 'Apapane and Common 'Amakihi are all present and is probably the only location most birders are able to visit where the first two might be spotted. Neither of the species is common, but there is a good chance of seeing one or the other here, especially if the trip is led by an experienced hiker who knows their birds. (Some of the hike leaders are not birders and may not make a point of trying to find the rarer species, inquire when making reservations if the leader knows their birds).
Introduced species which are present here include Red-billed Leiothrix, Hwamei, Japanese Whiteeye, Japanese Bush Warbler, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, Common Myna, Spotted and Zebra Doves.
Pueo may pass low overhead, but are easier to see on the bare slopes and the top of the ridge before the start of the boardwalk trail - the prime birding area of Waikomoi. 'Akohe'kohe seem to hang out near the bottom of the trail, whereas Parrotbills seem to prefer the area near the first steps on the boardwalk and often group together with Maui Creepers, so check all those flocks just in case.
Best Time To Visit: All Year, winter is perhaps best for the 'Akohe'kohe and Maui Parrotbill.
|6). POLIPOLI SPRINGS STATE RECREATION AREA
Open Access. No Fees. Sometimes only passable with 4-wheel drive vehicles.
From Kahalui Airport take Haleakala Highway (Route 37) South towards Haleakala, continue through Pukulani onto Kula Highway (still Route 37). Do Not turn off to Haleakala National Park. Carry on until Route 37 until the second junction which joins Route 377 (the one that goes up to Haleakala), proceed left on 377 for a short way then turn right up a steep, unmarked paved road, continue for about 5 miles along the zig-zag road until the paved road ends. Here the track may be unpassable if the weather has been bad, so unless in a 4-wheel drive vehicle think twice about continuing. At the 8.4 mile marker from the open range gate the road forks, take the right turn posted to Polipoli, the road improves somewhat here, continue to the 9.1 mile mark and the parking area. from here several trails lead off into the forests. Nearby Kula Botanical Gardens is accessed off the same road at the base of Waipoli road.
Weather can be very changeable here and thick cloud can quickly roll in, make sure you are prepared for this, both physically and vehicle-wise. Cattle are an extra obstacle to be aware of, as they often stand in the road.
Polipoli Springs State Recreation Area has similar forest to Hosmer Grove, being mainly introduced species, but the site still holds ornithological interest with several native species occurring.
Common 'Amakihi, 'Apapane and Maui Alauahio (Maui Creeper) are the main species of interest and they can all be seen easily at this site. Red-billed Leiothrix (right) are also easily seen here and at the Kula Botanical gardens a few miles away. Introduced species include Ring-necked Pheasant, Eurasian Skylark, Japanese Bush Warbler, Japanese Whiteeye, Northern Cardinal, Hwamei and Common Myna. The indigenous Hawaiian Short-eared Owl can also be seen here.
Best Time To Visit: All Year