Birding O’ahu: Some Native Birds


As WC described yesterday, many of the endemic birds are gone. Marine birds have fared a little better, especially where the State of Hawai’i or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have worked to fence out the human-introduced rats, feral cats and mongoose that eat bird eggs and hatchlings. He’s a selection of native birds, some resident and some migrant, that spend at least part of the year in O’ahu.

Wandering Tattler, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Wandering Tattler, O’ahu, Hawai’i

Wandering Tattler is an uncommon seasonal migrant. You really have to wonder what the evolutionary advantage is for a shorebird to fly 2,300 miles from Alaska to Hawai’i and back. WC has photographed this species on river banks outside of Nome. But they are present in small numbers on O’ahu.

Pacific Golden Plover, O’ahu, Hawai’i

Like it’s larger Tattler cousin, the Pacific Golden Plover – a different but related species to the more familiar American Golden Plover that breeds in alpine habitat  in Alaska – the Pacific Golden Plover breeds in far western Alaska, including the northern Bering Sea islands.

Hawai'ian Stilt, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Hawai’ian Stilt, O’ahu, Hawai’i

Many millennia ago, Black-necked Stilts found their way to Hawai’i, Bog knows how. Presently, they’re treated as a subspecies of its forefathers, but the smart money is on a split soon, making them a separate species.

Bristle-thighed Curlew, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Bristle-thighed Curlew, O’ahu, Hawai’i

This species nests in two areas in western coastal Alaska. It winters in Oceania, from O’ahu in the east to Midway in the west. Only the Bar-tailed Godwit has a longer non-stop flight over water. These curlews fly more than 2,400 miles, non-stop, without resting or feeding. Their fledglings make the flight south without adult supervision. Absolutely amazing.

Greater White-fronted Goose, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Greater White-fronted Goose, O’ahu, Hawai’i

Accidental birds show up in Hawai’i all the time. This Greater White-fronted Goose seemed pretty happy in the ponds at James Campbell NWR. A goose, at least, can land on salt water and rest. But what does it eat? There’s nothing much for a hard-working goose to eat between mainland North America and the north shore of O’ahu.

Laysan Albatross, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Laysan Albatross, O’ahu, Hawai’i

Laysan Albatrosses famously nest on Midway Island, but each year a pair or two attempt to nest on the north shore of O’ahu. So far, they haven’t been successful, but increasingly rigorous efforts to keep predators out of their nesting area may work. Laysan Albatrosses that are feeding chicks have been known to range as far north as the Aleutian Islands. You have not seen effortless flight until you have watched an albatross.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Black-crowned Night-Heron, O’ahu, Hawai’i

A resident on O’ahu, present in surprising numbers. Another bird species where you have to wonder how in the world a breeding pair made it here.

Hawai'ian Coot, O'ahu, Hawai'i

Hawai’ian Coot, O’ahu, Hawai’i

Finally, another bird that seemingly had no chance of migrating to the Hawai’ian Islands, but there it is. It’s been around long enough that it has evolved away from its North American parental stock. The white shield on the face is noticeably bigger and the overall coloration has changed. Currently, it’s regarded as a subspecies of the American Coot, but the question is still open.

These are hardly all of the native species that are still around, and don’t include the lingering songbirds. WC and Mrs. WC dipped on their one effort to find native passerines. Without making excuses, the 25-35 mph winds up on the ridges – above the mosquito habitat – were a factor, as was the rain and a scheduled visit to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.