Although many of Hawaii’s original bird species have gone the way of the dodo, there are still a number of rare and critically endangered native bird species which cling to existence high in the Moloka‘i forests or down on the protected seashore. Anyone interested in volunteering in one of Moloka‘i’s wetlands or learning more about the island’s endangered bird species is encouraged to contact Nene O Moloka‘i (808/553-5992), a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Moloka‘i’s endangered waterfowl.

A long-legged shore bird stands in the water fishing.

An Ae’o or Hawaiian Stilt, a subspecies of the Black-necked Stilt. Photo © James Brennan, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Once the kolea are seen in the islands, locals know that the humpback whales aren’t far behind.The last known sightings of the Moloka‘i thrush (oloma‘o) and Moloka‘i creeper (kakawahie) were both in the Kamakou Preserve, a rugged and wet mountain area that requires four-wheel drive to access. In this protected area home to 219 endemic species of plants, the trademark calls of honeycreepers (i‘iwi), ‘apapane, ‘amakihi, and the Hawaiian owl (pueo) can still be heard resonating through the lush green treetops. The Nature Conservancy leads trips into the preserve once per month March through October. Find out more by calling 808/553-5236.

Although not open to the public, the Kakahai‘a National Wildlife Refuge 5.5 miles east of Kaunakakai can be visited by arranging a tour through the Maui County National Wildlife Refuge office at 808/875-1582. This 45-acre protected area five miles east of Kaunakakai is home to endangered Hawaiian stilts (a‘eo) as well as endangered Hawaiian coots (‘alae ke‘oke‘o).

During the fall and winter months it is common to see Pacific golden plover (kolea) scuttling their way across the shorelines and grassy areas of the island. These birds migrate all the way to the Arctic Circle during summer before returning to Hawaii for the long, cold winter. Once the kolea are seen in the islands, locals know that the humpback whales aren’t far behind.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.