BY Sonja Keala – There is more than one way to spend a day here in the Islands. If you want to mix up your beach lounging and salt-water soaking with something both cultural and educational, an endangered bird tour may be a perfect way to immerse yourself in the Islands and come out with a new perspective on the land and the different environments it supports.
History of Birds in Hawaii
According to the American Bird Conservancy, 71 bird species have become extinct in Hawaii. Of those, 48 were prior to the arrival of Europeans, and 23 were since Captain James Cook arrived in the Islands in 1778. Currently, the state of Hawaii has 33 endangered bird species, 10 of which have not been seen in 40+ years.
Hawaii Endangered Bird Tours
Below are tour options for both Kauai as well as the Big Island. If any of these options look appealing, please don’t hesitate to contact me for assistance with booking and for any other questions.
Located in Hanalei on Kauai’s North Shore, the Ho’opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill & Taro Farms Tour takes a look at not only the sole remaining rice mill in the state of Hawaii, but tours the working wetland taro farm located in a National Wildlife Refuge.
On the tour guests learn about the agricultural and cultural history of the Islands, the cultivation and uses of kalo (taro), and view a range of endangered native water birds on and around the premises. The tour lasts a few hours and ends with a picnic lunch incorporating taro and other food grown on the farm.
Tours are offered at 10AM on Wednesdays only and require reservations.
(Note: The photos by Mike Teruya can be purchased exclusively at the nonprofit Rice Mill & Taro Farms Tour kiosk to support education programs.)
On the Big Island
Hawaii Forest & Trail are based just north of out of Kailua-Kona and offer two bird watching tours, covering several regions of the Big Island in a variety of climate zones.
The Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure
Taking guests through the Hakalau Forest (Hakalau translates as “many perches”), the first National Wildlife Refuge established in the United States for forest birds, this tour is focused around the Pua Akala meadow on the northeastern face of Mauna Kea.
The tour involves around 2-4 miles of hiking in a 4-hour time period, with a 650-ft. elevation gain and is bookended with a 2.5-hour drive that gives guests the chance to view an array of scenery, do some car-birding, and learn much about the 11 climate zones present on the Big Island and the vast wildlife they support. Though they do supply binoculars, they encourage all bird enthusiasts to bring any gear, and welcome any and all to take photos along the way.
Rainforest and Dryforest Birding Adventure
Dubbed ‘a supreme study in contrast,’ this tour takes guests into two very contrasting climate zones, on the southern slope of Mauna Kea and the northeastern flank of Mauna Loa. The rainforest portion ventures along the Puu Oo Trail, at 6,000 ft., and offers potential sightings of iiwi, apapane, amakihi,omao, elepaio, and akiapolaau — known for their multipurpose beak.
The dryforest portion heads into the Mauna Kea Forest Preserve, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world, and all eyes are peeled for sightings of palila, Hawaii amakihi and Hawaiielepaio, the last of which is known for the white feathering on its head.
Both tours are full-day trips and run on weekdays only.
Sonja Keala is a Vacation Concierge with Hawaii Life Real Estate Services