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Can you spot these 5 Hawaii birds in town?

You don’t have to venture deep into the forest to spot beautiful, interesting birds.


Ornithologist Douglas Pratt recently rereleased his classic, comprehensive book on birds, Hawaii’s Birds and Their Habitats, complete with more than 340 new photographs from Big Island photographer Jack Jeffrey. The guide is a boon to hardcore bird watchers and ornithologists, but it’s an interesting read for more casual bird buffs, too. Here are five birds you can keep an eye out for right now, without even leaving town.

Fairy Tern (aka White Tern)

These graceful birds are lovers of both trees and water, and feed on small fish. “They’re found only in the city, that’s the unusual thing about them,” says Pratt. In fact, in 2007, former Mayor Mufi Hannemann designated the native seabird as the official bird of Honolulu. Fairy terns don’t build nests; they lay a single egg on a branch and once the chick emerges, it remains on the branch, hanging on for dear life. During neszting season, fairy terns can be seen on the grounds of Iolani Palace, the state Capitol, the state library, Honolulu Hale, as well as in Kapiolani Park.


photos: courtesy jack jeffrey


Rose-Ringed Parakeet

Once you spot it, this lime-green bird, with its long tail feathers and red bill, is hard to miss, especially if you look in the trees on King and Beretania streets east of the state Capitol, says Pratt. For a closer look, “you can also go to the intersection of Tantalus and Makiki Heights Drive,” he adds. “There’s someone who feeds them up there. They eat fruit, so they can be a nuisance, especially if you’ve got a lychee tree,” says Pratt, with a laugh.



White-Rumped Shama

This bird with an orange belly is found in any “city area with vegetation,” says Pratt. It’s known for its voice, and thrives in the Islands today thanks to Hui Manu, a group formed in the 1930s that brought the white-rumped shama to Oahu. It’s renowned in the bird markets of Singapore, says Pratt.



Oahu Amakihi

Once threatened by avian malaria, this native bird, a Hawaiian honeycreeper, can be found atop the trees lining Tantalus Drive, in Manoa Valley, as well as in the Aiea State Park.



Oahu Elepaio

Also a native bird with a similarly small population, this little brown and white flycatcher can be found in East Honolulu, up Kuliouou Road.



For more on these birds and hundreds of others, check out Hawaii’s Birds and Their Habitats. $8.95, Mutual Publishing.

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Honolulu Magazine May 2018
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