Animals

A google map image of Hawaii.

Hawaii is very isolated.

It's the most isolated spot on the planet! With 2,300 miles separating Hawaii from the nearest continental land mass, animals and plants were very slowly introduced here over millions of years - but only if they were lucky enough to survive the ocean voyage.

Over time, they became endemic to Hawaii as they evolved to adapt to island life. Eventually, Hawaii's endemic plants and animals were even more varied than what we find on the Galapagos Islands, with distinctive features not found anywhere else in the world.

 
An illustration of what the moa-nalo might have looked like.

Flightless Birds

One of Hawaii's unique animals included a large, flightless duck called the moa-nalo. Although now extinct, we know the moa-nalo used to be the main herbivore in Hawai'i.

When Polynesian settlers came to the islands, bringing with them other animals like feral pigs, the moa-nalo were easy targets. Since there were almost no predatory mammals on the islands, they were not used to being hunted and soon went extinct.

 
bat

The Hawai'ian Hoary Bat

This bat is one of just three species of mammal still in existence (and it's an endangered species!) that is endemic to the Hawaiian islands. This tiny bat used to exist on many islands throughout Hawai'i, including Oah'u, but now only resides on the big island of Hawai'i and on Kaua'i.
 
Hylaeus 2

The Hawai'ian Bee

Hylaeus, a genus of Hawaiian bee, were once one of Hawaii's most abundant insects. But today they are under threat from habitat loss and invasive species like ants. Populations are isolated and a fraction of the size they once were. Scientists and community groups are trying to help the bees by restoring habitat like naupaka (Scaevola sencea) and searching for ways to protect nest sites from predators. Photo by Jason Graham, USFWS.

 
I'iwi bird

The 'I'iwi

Found only in Hawaii, the 'I'iwi (pronounced ee-EE-vee) is a native honeycreeper uniquely adapted to sip nectar from certain flowers. It lives in high mountain forests and feeds primarily on the ‘Ōhi‘a tree.

Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death and diseases from invasive mosquitoes have taken their toll on the 'I'wi. Once found commonly across all the Hawaiian islands, today they are mainly found on the big island of Hawaii.

Last updated: December 21, 2017

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