Birds of Summit District

Birds of the Summit Header pueo eyes

NPS photo

`Au i ke kai me he manu ala.
“Cross the sea like a bird.”

 
Millions of years ago, the first ancestors of the endemic birds of Hawai`i found themselves on the most remote archipelago in the world. These birds, who either flew here or were blown off course, found ways to survive in a new environment. Their descendants, acted upon by the forces of time and isolation, evolved to become unique species found nowhere else on earth.

The first people to settle the Hawaiian archipelago from Polynesia found healthy islands covered in birds, including flightless species. There were as yet no predators except other birds. Over the next 1,000 years, settlers would bring rats, dogs, pigs, cats, mongoose, introduced birds, and mosquitoes.

Habitat loss, predators, and mosquito-borne diseases led to the native birds’ decline. Currently climate change is a threat. Higher elevations are getting warmer, allowing mosquitoes to breed in areas that were formerly too cool.

Conservationists work hopefully and tirelessly to safeguard the homes of the remaining endemic Hawaiian birds. Places like Haleakalā National Park protect the best habitats for these birds. You too can help by staying on trail, driving carefully, not littering, and enjoying these birds from a distance.
 

Honeycreepers


 
Hawaiian honeycreeper `apapane
An `apapane resting on a branch in Haleakalā National Park.

Mark Kimura

`Apapane

(Himatione sanguinea)
Status: Not threatened. Endemic.

`Apapane are found busily working ʻōhiʻa lehua blossoms for nectar and insects. Look for these red, black, and white honeycreepers in the Hosmer Grove area and at Palikū Cabin in the backcountry.

The short black bill helps distinguish `apapane from the similarly-colored `i`iwi. Calls are various, changeable, chatty. This busy feeder stops at most flowers for just a few seconds.
 
An `i`iwi rests on an ʻōhiʻa lehua blossom.
An `i`iwi perches on an `ōhi`a lehua blossom.

Mark Kimura

`I`iwi

(Vestiara coccinea)
Status: Threatened, Vulnerable. Endemic.

Adult `i`wi are an astonishing red, with striking black wings. The slender, long, pale orange-colored bill is unmistakable. These honeycreepers seek flower nectar in native and non-native trees in the Hosmer Grove area and around Palikū Cabin. Creaks, gurgles, and a “rusty hinge” sound are characteristic of the call.

Hawaiian royalty prized brilliant `i`iwi feathers for capes.
 
Hawaiian honeycreeper `amakihi
An `amakihi resting on a branch in Haleakalā National Park.

Mark Kimura

`Amakihi

(Chlorodrepanis virens)
Status: Not threatened. Endemic.

Look for brilliantly green-yellow `amakihi in the Hosmer Grove area, Kalahaku Overlook, and at Palikū Cabin in the backcountry. Females are slightly less vibrant. Both forage for blossom nectar and insects. The “bandit mask” over the eye and curved bill distinguish the `amakihi.

`Amakihi are well known for their “scoldy” manner, often delivering a buzzy “tseet” at birdwatchers.

 
Hawaiian honeycreeper ‘Alauahio in Haleakalā National Park.
Look for a straight bill and the yellow blush on the forehead, face, and belly of this small, yellow-green forest bird.

C. Robby Kohley

`Alauahio

(Paroreomyza montana)
Status: Not threatened. Endemic to East Maui.

Look for this round, quick, grey-green little forest bird creeping along branches and trunks looking for insects. `Alauahio like forested slopes, such as Hosmer Grove and the adjacent Waikamoi Preserve. Their song consists of a repeated whistled phrase described as: “whichy-wheesee-whurdy-whew”.

Small flocks of these bold birds sometimes approach birdwatchers.
 
Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill)
The Maui Parrotbill is aptly named. A strong and curved bill, sharp and serious, is the best identifier of this extremely rare treasure.

C. Robby Kohley

Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill)

(Pseudonestor xanthophrys)
Status: Endemic. Critically Endangered. Presently only
~500 birds remain.

Stocky kiwikiu, olive green above and yellow below, are named for their parrotlike bills, which they employ to split branches in search of insects in high elevation wet forests. Check for the distinctive black eye stripe as you search the Hosmer Grove area and near Palikū Cabin in the backcountry.

Its call is a short “chip,” chirped every three to five seconds. Its song consists of slow, rich “cheer” notes.
 

Ground-Nesting Birds

 
The “stripes” on the elegant neck of this Hawaiian native goose mark it as distinct from any other goose.
The “stripes” on the elegant neck of this Hawaiian native goose mark it as distinct from any other goose.

NPS Photo

Nēnē

(Branta sandvicensis)
Status: Endangered. Endemic.

Nēnē prefer grasslands and shrublands below 8,500 feet, so look for them near the cabins in the backcountry, at Kalahaku Overlook, and often along roads (so drive very carefully). Nēnē are small geese with distinctive “stripey” furrows on their white necks, a black head, bill and feet, and a mostly brown body. They forage steadily all day on grass tips, leaves, flowers, and berries.

Like all geese, nēnē honk while flying. If encountered on the ground they produce the low “nay-nay” sound that they are named for.
 
The brilliant yellow eyes of this Hawaiian owl glow from a face feathered in browns and golds.
The brilliant yellow eyes of this Hawaiian owl glow from a face feathered in browns and golds.

Mark Kimura

Pueo (Hawaiian Short-Eared Owl)

(Asio flammeus sandwichensis)
Status: Endangered. Endemic.

Unlike most owls, pueo are day flyers and can be seen over open spaces like meadows and shrublands, where they hunt introduced rodents and small mongoose. Look for them at dusk and dawn. This subspecies of the American short-eared owl has striking bright gold eyes and a streaked, buffy brown and white body, and feathered legs.

Before people introduced rodents and mongoose to Hawaiʻi, pueo hunted other birds.
 
A grey head, back and wings contrast with a snowy underside on this seabird. Its legs are pink and black.
A grey head, back and wings contrast with a snowy underside on this seabird. Its legs are pink and black.

Jim Denny

`Ua`u (Hawaiian Petrel)

(Pterodroma sandwichensis)
Status: Endangered. Endemic.

`Ua`u are seabirds that only come to land to breed, between May and September. Listen
to their low “oooo ah ooo” call as they return to their burrows at night in the walls of the
summit wilderness around Hōlua Cabin and along the Halemau`u Trail. Listen as well from Leleiwi and Kalahaku Overlooks. While at sea, `ua`u feed on squid and fish, and bring food back to the chick in the burrow. Researchers often find squid beaks in the crater.

`Ua`u travel as far as Alaska and Japan during two-week-long feeding trips.
 

Common Non-Native Birds in Haleakalā National Park

 
Ring-Necked Pheasant
A ring-necked pheasant stands on volcanic rock at the summit.

NPS Photo

Ring-Necked Pheasant

(Phasianus colchicus)

Both the Eurasian chukar and the Asian ring-necked pheasant were introduced to Hawai`i for hunting. Both species can be seen in pastures and open shrublands.
 
Chukar
A chukar stands on volcanic soil at the summit.

NPS Photo.

Chukar

(Alectoris chukar)

The chukar, in particular, seems to have adapted well to the mountain’s cold, dry summit. Do not mistake it for the nēnē. Please do not feed these or any birds in the park.

Last updated: May 9, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Haleakalā National Park
PO Box 369

Makawao, HI 96768

Phone:

(808) 572-4400

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