Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About The Birds of Hawaii

There is no doubt that Hawaii is a beautiful place because of the vegetation and variety of wildlife native to the islands.

Hawaii has been said to be a birdwatcher’s paradise. Below you will find everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the birds in Hawaii.

Whether you are a novice or expert birdwatcher, somewhere in between, or just curious about Hawaii’s birds you’ll learn about:

  • The vast number of bird species that are native to the Hawaiian Islands
  • Which Hawaiian birds fall into the “White” category
  • Which Hawaii birds fall into the “Yellow” category
  • Details about native Hawaiian species
  • The Hawaiian state bird
  • Conservation efforts for the birds in Hawaii

The Number of Species of Birds in Hawaii

One reason Hawaii has been said to be a birdwatcher’s paradise is the number of species on the islands. There are over 350 known species that live in Hawaii.

While not all of these are native to Hawaii, they are still fun to check off of your must-see list.

Of the over 350 known species on the islands, there have been over 140 species that have only been found in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, many birds in Hawaii are on the endangered list or have become extinct. It is believed that an astounding 95 of the 140 species have become extinct since the islands became home to humans.

In addition to the 95 known extinct species, there are believed to be over 30 species that have not been seen in decades.

Due to the inability to find the birds on the islands, it is thought that they, too, are extinct.

Thankfully, there are conservation efforts in place to save birds that Hawaii has on its endangered list.

Not only have national parks been established across Hawaii to help protect these animals, but they also have conservatories.

Conservation Efforts in Hawaii


The American Bird Conservatory has helped the bird population in Hawaii by setting up the following efforts which have been met with great success:

  • Public Service Announcements – the birds have a predator, thanks to the introduction of the house cat.

    PSA’s have become a successful way to inform people that cats are threatening the birds in Hawaii.
  • Protective Fencing – in order to create a safe space for birds, especially those that nest on the ground, fencing has become a very successful conservation method.

    Many fences that deter predators have been donated to the National Parks.
  • Habitat Restoration – one way that conservation efforts have had a positive impact on endangered Hawaii bird is to improve the bird’s habitats.

    Planting trees and improving the quality and quantity of the habitats has been extremely successful.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established to help protect the nesting seabirds.

Predators threaten nesting seabirds because they nest in areas that are prone to predators.

One thing that the Kilauea Point refuge has done to protect the nesting seabirds is to install fencing that predators cannot get, though.

The Kilauea Point refuge is run by the National Wildlife Refuge System or NWRS.

Additionally, the refuge is open to the public. Birdwatchers can not only get a glimpse of nesting seabirds but other wildlife, too.

Dolphins, whales, seals, and turtles can all be seen at Kilauea Point. The native vegetation that has become endangered can also be seen here.

Hawaii wants to protect birds through national parks, and conservatories include, but are in no way limited to the Curlew, Hawaiian Goose, Palila, ‘Elepaio, Newell’s Shearwater, and so many more.

The Must-Know Birds in Hawaii

There are so many birds in Hawaii that it’s hard to limit the list of the must-see species in Hawaii.

This list encompasses birds that can not only be found on the big island but one or more of the Hawaiian islands.

Here are the top 10 birds that birdwatchers love to look for in Hawaii:

  1. Zebra Dove
  2. Red Crested Cardinal
  3. Japanese White Eye
  4. Hawaiian Goose
  5. Hawaiian Owl
  6. Red Footed Booby
  7. Hawaiian Stilt
  8. ‘I’iwi
  9. Red-Whiskered Bulbul
  10. Laysan Albatros

Zebra Dove

In addition to the spotted dove and mourning dove, the zebra dove can be found on the big island. This bird was introduced on the big island as early as the 1920s from Australia.

Not only can this dove be found in populated areas, but they can also be found in the lowland habitats that Hawaii has to offer.

The zebra dove can often be found near restaurants with outdoor eating areas, such as diners and cafes.

They are known to beg for scraps of food and have somewhat of an outgoing personality.

The zebra dove is smaller than the two related doves mentioned earlier. They are light brown and grey with long tails, and blue plumage surrounding their beak and eyes.

Their feathers are tipped in white and black, which makes them look striped like a zebra.

Red Crested Cardinal

The red-crested cardinal is a beautiful cardinal that is always fun to find. It is similar to a northern cardinal in that its head is red with red crested feathers on top.

Unlike the northern cardinal, it is not all red. It is white-breasted, and its wing and back are dark greys.

The red-crested cardinal was introduced to the Hawaiian island of Ohau via South America in the early 1930s.

This crested cardinal can be seen hanging around parks, forests, and even people’s yards.

Japanese White Eye

The Japanese white-eye, obviously native to Japan, found its way to become a Hawaii bird in the late 1920s.

It has become widespread among all of the Hawaiian islands and might be the easiest bird to find on the islands.

This bird can be found in populated areas such as parks and rain forests and mangroves.

These small birds are just four inches tall and are an incredibly fast flyer. The plumage over all of its body is mostly light green, with the exception of the plumage around its eyes and its white belly.

Their eyes are lined with bright, white circles which can make them easy to be seen.

Hawaiian Goose

The Hawaiian goose, also called the nene, or the Hawaiian Nene goose is the state bird of Hawaii.

Of all of the state birds in the United States, the Hawaiian goose is the only state bird that is a goose. This bird became the state bird in 1957. It is also the rarest state bird. In fact, it has been on Hawaii’s endangered species list since the late 1960s.

In the 1950’s it was believed that there were only 43 living birds – 13 in captivity and 30 in the wild.

It is believed that the number of the Hawaiian goose was depleted because of predators, excessive hunting, and egg gathering.

Thanks to conservation efforts, there are now an estimated 2,500 Hawaiian Goose in the wild.

In the wild, they can be found on the island of Molokai, Kaua’i, Maui, and the big island.

Conservation efforts have also led to an increase of the Hawaiian goose in captivity; that number reaches over 10,000.

The rare Hawaiian goose has a black crown and face with cheeks that are cream-colored. Its neck is light grey and has a dark ring at its base.

The Hawaiian goose has gray-brown plumage on its body and wings. Its bill and feet are both dark gray, almost black in color.

Recent DNA tests revealed that the Hawaiian goose is related to the Canadian goose, which can also be seen on the island. It is believed that the Canadian goose was found the islands as far as 500,000 years ago.

Hawaiian Owl

There are two types of owl that live in Hawaii. One is the barn owl, and the other is the Hawaiian owl, also known as the pueo.

Of the two owls on the island, the pueo is a type of short-eared owls. They differ from the barn owl not only in appearance but by the way they hunt, too.

As far as appearance goes, the pueo is darker and smaller than the barn owl. This bird has brown feathers and a streaking pattern on its face.

Unlike the barn owl, whose face is shaped like a heart, the pueo’s face is round in structure. This bird is known to nest on the ground, whereas barn owls nest in trees.

Of all of the birds on this list, this owl can be one bird that is more challenging to find in Hawaii. They camouflage into their surroundings well and are typically only out at dusk and dawn.

Rarely they can be seen in the daytime when they are hunting to feed their young.

Red Footed Booby

The red-footed booby is one of three boobies found in Hawaii. Of the three boobies seen in Hawaii, it is the easiest to check off of your bird watching list because of its bright red feet.

It can often be found among the other birds at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Even though the population is believed to be decreasing, it is listed as being of least concern on the list of threatened species.

They are commonly seen year-round in their tropical habitat, which makes them not just the big island, but any tropical island a perfect home for this seabird.

The red feet become even brighter during mating season and stick out on the dark, rocky hillsides that it inhabits.

Additionally, it has a stark white body. The red-footed booby has an extraordinarily colored beak and face. It can be light blue, almost white, or it can look like a rainbow of pastel blues, pinks, purples, oranges, and yellows.

Hawaiian Stilt

The Hawaiian stilt, also known as the ae’o, can be found along the rivers and in the wetlands on many of the islands. In addition to the big island, this bird can be found on all of the larger islands.

These beautiful birds are also on the endangered list. The reason that the Hawaiian stilt population has been decreasing is due to the destruction of its natural habitat, the wetlands, as well as the introduction of predators.

The Hawaiian stilt eats small fish, insects, and crabs. The females can lay up to four eggs.

The sounds that the female and male make are different. The female voice is much lower than the male’s high pitched calls.

Much like flamingos, the Hawaiian stilt has the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies. In fact, they are only exceeded in length to body proportion by the flamingo.

The Hawaiian stilt grows up to 15 inches tall and has a wingspan of almost 30 inches. It has pink and orange legs, black wings, a black beak, black back and black around its head.

The Hawaiian stilt is white-bodied and has a white spot above either eye.


The ‘i’iwi is a type of Hawaiian honeycreeper and is one of Hawaii’s many varieties of forest birds. It is one of the most popular bird to look for in Hawaii. They are only found in forests with high elevations.

In the correct habitat, the ‘i’iwi can sometimes be seen on the island of Oahu or Molokai. The best place to spot an ‘i’iwi is on the big island, Kauai, or Maui.

This brightly colored forest bird has an almost neon red beak that is curved downward. The ‘i’iwi’s wing feathers and tail feathers are black.

All other feathers on this bird are a shade red, anywhere from orange-red to scarlet.

Red-Whiskered Bulbul

The red-whiskered bulbul was brought to the island of Oahu from Asia in the 1960s. This bird can be a pesky bird, and it is unwanted because of the amount of damage it can cause to agriculture in Hawaii.

In fact, the bird is considered such a pest that you can report seeing it in order to help preserve agricultural areas.

This bird is similar in size to a black cardinal. Its feathers are black, with the exception of white patches under the tail and eyes. Occasionally they can be seen with white breasts.

Laysan Albatross

The Laysan albatross can be seen easily in Hawaii. This seabird is monogamous, so long as both partners are alive. Should one of the partners die, the albatross could create a new bond, but not always.

These easily seen birds are mostly white, with black wings and a dark patch around their eye. The color of their bill ranges from yellow to gray with dark tips. its feet and legs are pink.

The Laysan albatross can be seen in the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, it can be seen on the island of Oahu and the big island.

Categories of Birds That Live in Hawaii

Hawaii has a wide variety of birds because of the different habitats and tropical climate that it has to offer its birds.

The following are different types of birds that can be seen on some or all of Hawaii, including the big island:

  • Forest birds
  • Birds of prey
  • Seabirds
  • Shorebirds
  • Waterbirds

Of these different types of birds, the forest birds and the seabirds have the most species compared to the other categories. The most popular forest birds include the ‘i’iwi,’ Oahu creeper, Palila, Laysan Finch, and Nihoa Millerbird.

The number of forest bird species has decreased since humans began to inhabit the islands, especially the big island. There are at least 21 known species of forest birds.

Of the 21 forest birds, over half are endangered. The reason that many of the forest birds have become endangered is due to the introduction of predators and the destruction of habitat.

The most popular seabirds include the Laysan Albatross, Red-Footed Booby, and the Hawaiian Petrel.

The White Birds in Hawaii

There are many white or mostly white birds that can be found on the big island, as well as the other islands that make up the state.

Hawaii’s white birds include the White Tern, Laysan Albatross, Cattle Egret, Red-Footed Booby, and the Sanderling.

The Yellow Birds in Hawaii

Visitors to the big island of Hawaii frequently wonder what the little yellow birds are that can be seen along the coast, in people’s yards, as well as other grassy areas.

The bird that people are seeking out is saffron finches as they are very populous on the big island of Hawaii and on Oahu.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.