There is a tremendous amount of bird life on the Big Island, including the highest concentration of Hawaiian endemic species that are found nowhere else on earth. Seabirds, raptors, finches, honeycreepers, game birds, and many others are prevalent on the Big Island. Though seabird nesting areas on the Big Island are for the most part inaccessible, there are a number of areas that offer excellent Big Island birding.
Best Big Island Birding Spots
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park
At 4,000 feet in elevation, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park offers a wealth of bird life. Within the 323,431-acre parklands you can experience an amazing amount of endemic bird life, such as ‘apapane, ‘oma‘o, iʻiwi, ‘amakihi, ‘elepaio, ‘io (the Hawaiian hawk), and nēnē. Some of the finest bird watching on Big Island can be had near Thurston Lava Tube and on the Kīlauea ʻIki Trail. Nēnē are frequent at the Nāpau Trail trailhead, and if you continue up Highway 11 and turn onto Mauna Loa Road, you will find Kipuka Pua‘ulu, also known as Bird Park. Here you may see the endemic species listed above, as well as a number of resident Kalij pheasants and chukars.
Pu‘u La‘au is located in a region of montane dry forest, and is one of the few publicly accessible places on the Big Island where you might see endemic species such as the rare ‘akiapola‘au and the beautiful and endangered palila. Frequently seen endemic residents are ‘apapane, ‘oma‘o, ‘elepaio, and pueo (Hawaiian owl). Numerous introduced species can also be seen, including skylarks, black francolins, and chukars. To get to Pu‘u La‘au, take Saddle Road (Daniel K. Inouye Highway) to the Waiki‘i turnoff. Your first right will be an unpaved hunting road. Proceed up the road until you see a big concrete water tank on your left, where you’ll find a fenced reserve area. You can also continue up the road to the hunter’s cabin and hike around the area.
Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge
You’ll need a hardy 4-wheel drive and permission to go to Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge, but it’s well worth it. With unquestionably the best bird watching on Big Island, Hakalau covers a massive tract on slopes of Mauna Kea and offers cabins for multi-day stays. Contact the Refuge Manager in Hilo at 808-933-6915 for information on birding opportunities.
Birding Tours on Big Island, Hawaii
If you prefer a guided tour, Hawai‘i Forest and Trail offers excellent birding trips to Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge on Thursdays that depart from Kona and Waikōloa. One of the birding tours on Big Island Hawaii they offer takes you to Hakalau and to the rainforest so you can experience the full variety of avian life on the Big Island.
An Experience to Tweet About
The Big Island is a bird lover’s paradise, and at ILoveHawaii we want to see you get the most out of your Big Island birding experience. Contact us today so we can assist in providing you with an amazing day of bird watching.