Birding in Hawaii

Katherine and I visited Oahu in October for a wedding. This was the first time we’d visited Hawaii since we began birding.

The birds shown below are birds we’d never seen before so we added them to our “life list.”

Pacific Golden-Plover

Pacific Golden-Plovers migrate from Arctic breeding grounds to winter in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Some travel as far as 8,000 miles. This is more than twice the distance Katherine and I traveled to get from California to Oahu!

Red-crested Cardinal

Sometimes known as the Brazilian Cardinal, this bird is not closely related to the true cardinal family (according to Wikipedia). It is not native to Hawaii, but there are plenty of them here now. We frequently found them feeding in the grasses in the nearby parks.

Common Waxbill

I think of these beautiful little birds as Oahu’s version of a Bushtit. Like the Bushtit, they are often found in noisy flocks, chattering away to each other as they forage. It is another species introduced to Hawaii, though it is best know in Brazil (according to Birds of the World website).

Java Sparrow

Another beautifully colored bird we saw for the first time, the Java Sparrow is yet another introduced species. It is native to Java (hence its name, I imagine ;0) and Bali.

According to Wikipedia, the Java Sparrow “is now evaluated as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with less than 10,000 individuals remaining.” They are “severely threatened by the illegal exotic pet trade as they are sought after for their distinctive song.” (Wikipedia)

Common Myna

Another non-native bird found in Hawaii is the Common Myna. According to Birds of the World, this bird was introduced into the Hawaiian Islands in 1865 to control pests. “It is now one of the most common and wide-spread avian species in all of the human-inhabited islands.”

Western Cattle Egret

Introduced into Hawaii (from Florida in 1959) to, again, control pests, the Western Cattle Egret was seen in large groups in the grassy park near our hotel. Katherine is sure we’ve seen one before, but I’m equally sure I hadn’t. Another for the life list!

The cattle egret has a commensal* relationship with large grazing and browsing animals. It was easily able to switch to cattle and horses as it was introduced into different places. The cattle egret will eat fleas and ticks off these animals as well as eating insects in general.

*a long-term biological interaction in which members of one species gain benefits while the other species is neither harmed nor benefited, per Wikipedia

White-rumped Shama

The White-rumped Shama is another species that is not native to Hawaii. According to Wikipedia, this bird was introduced to Hawaii in 1931 and to Oahu in 1940 as caged birds. The one I saw would be the descendant of an escaped bird.

Yellow-fronted Canary

Another non-native bird is the Yellow-fronted Canary which was introduced into Oahu and Hawaii in the 1960s. They are sometimes known as the Green Singing Finch, though I did not hear any sing and it did not look green.

Warbling White-eye

The Warbling White-eye is native to Japan. It was introduced to other parts of the world as a pet and as pest control “with mixed results” according to Wikipedia. I’ll assume that the “mixed results” refers to the pest control role rather than the pet role.

This bird, rarely found on the ground, was much harder for Katherine and I to spot than many of the others, who were frequently found on the ground. However, I did manage to get a decent shot of one when Katherine saw it on a nearby bush.

(Katherine is the best spotter! Unfortunately for this bird photographer, she also uses her eyes to spot native plants when we are out birding! Look for birds!)

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Aah, the Rose-ringed Parakeet. We were told to look for them in the evenings when the light of the setting sun shines on flocks flying across the city. We saw them from our balcony on our first evening and I was determined to get a closer view.

Another non-native bird introduced to Hawaii, the Rose-ringed Parakeet is an unofficial “invasive species.” The Hawaii Invasive Species Council says that the “RRP are the most successful species of invasive parakeet worldwide. They pose a significant threat to agriculture in Hawai’i.”

Informally, Katherine and I heard that many residents complain about these birds, especially their loud vocalizations.

Nonetheless, I loved seeing them and spent a lot of time trying to get some good photos.

White Tern

The Hawaiian name for the beautiful, small White Tern is manu-o’Kū. Other names include angel tern and white noddy. I think I prefer the Hawaiian name.

During our walks, we often saw three flying together. I managed to get a photo of two of the three.

Green Sea Turtle

Okay, it’s not a bird, but…who doesn’t love sea turtles?

Katherine and I spend one day exploring the northern part of the island. We stopped to take a hike along one beach and were happily surprised to see Green Sea Turtles. These turtles are also called Honu, which is a distinctive sound they make when breathing. (Hawaii Bird Guide)

Unlike many of the birds we’d seen, this turtle is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.

Out of the many birds we saw, the Pacific Golden-plover and the White Tern are considered indigenous.


Katherine, wearing her “Sam shirt,” didn’t mind getting splashed by the waves. (Neither did this photographer, who was also splashed when taking photos from this walkway.)

We had a great time during our visit to Oahu, and were able to add several birds to our life list. In addition to the birds shown above, we saw, for the first time, Spotted Doves, Zebra Doves and Red-vented Bulbuls (none of which are indigenous to Hawaii).

I can’t wait to go back and see more!

Oh, and congratulations to the happy couple, Aimee and Danny! Thanks again for inviting us to your special day!

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