Unfortunately, most of the birds one will see in Hawaii are not native. It’s a long story, but the introduction of rats, cats and dwarf mongooses, along with habitat loss, have wreaked havoc with the native birds, many of whom are, or were, ground-nesters. Thirty-one species have gone extinct since 1800. The ‘Alala, or Hawaiian crow, went extinct in the wild in 2002. As of July 2010, 78 individuals were in captivity.
Almost every native Hawaiian bird is endangered, some critically. So it is ironic that one can stay at almost any resort and see lots of birds: saffron finches, common mynas, java sparrows, cardinals, house sparrows and others, but all have been introduced from other continents.
There are also migratory birds that can be easily seen along the coasts and beaches, mostly pelagic and shorebirds. However, they generally nest elsewhere.
If you’d like to learn more, check out this Wikipedia entry.
I’m on the Big Island and have been able to do some bird watching. In a week, I have yet to see a native bird. But I have gotten good photos of some of the other species that are here.
3 thoughts on “Hawaiian Birds-A Cautionary Tale”
And one day in the far distant future, these species that made it the islands via the “human life raft” will evolve into strange endemics, only to be wiped out by some future extinction event. Interesting article, Susan…
Susan, I think I remember your working on sketches of a North American extinct bird? How is that going?
I’ve started to do more drawings of the specimens I photographed at the museum. Next week I’ll be on it for real.