O`ahu’s deep valleys, lush forests, and sweeping mountain peaks are the perfect habitat for the birds of Oahu and bird enthusiasts alike. Whether you are taking on a trek through the natural wilderness of the islands interior or playing urban ornithologist, there is no shortage of sightings of our feathered friends across our tropical island.
A Rare Bird Indeed
While Hawaii has a high number of species that live here and nowhere else (known as endemic species), the majority of those species are found on Maui and the Big Island. On O’ahu you might get lucky and see native honeycreepers (known in Hawaiian as `Apapane, I`iwi, and `Amakihi) on ridge hikes through the Ko`olau Mountains above Honolulu, but sightings are not common in easily accessible places. A nocturnal species that can be spotted at higher elevations is the pueo, a native short-eared owl. More colorful – but not native – are the 5 species of parrots and parakeets that have made O`ahu home. They can be spotted around Mānoa Valley making evening migrations through the trees, as well as in the woods of the Tantalus Loop and around Kapiolani Park, near Waikiki’s beaches.
The Birds of Oahu are a Bird Lover’s Paradise
O`ahu has plenty to offer for the bird lover. The rocky shores of Kaena Point are nesting grounds for large sea-going albatross, and Haleiwa was named after the frigatebird (`Iwa). They are easily spotted, cruising high above the cliffs and the rolling Pacific swells with minimal effort as they glide on their distinctively forked wings. Another prime spot for observing seabirds is the Windward coast; here boobies, terns, and shearwaters make their nests in the cliffs or offshore islands (some of which are accessible by kayak or paddleboard). In Kailua, Enchanted Lake and the Ke`olu Marsh wetlands preserve affords visitors glimpses of waterfowl from the paths along the boundary. Any forest hike in Oahu will bring you face-to-face (ear-to-beak?) with the musical Shama thrush and the striking Red-billed leiothrix. Cattle egret and little green herons can be seen stalking the grounds of Ko Olina’s golf course.
The James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge in Kahuku, on the North Shore, offers park and Oahu birding tours September through February during the peak of migratory bird season. You will marvel at the visitors who, like you, made the long flight just to bask in the warm Hawaiian sun.
The Lyon Arboretum offers 200 acres of secluded jungle, waterfalls, and hiking trails in Mānoa Valley and is an excellent place for day hikes and birdwatching for those who prefer self-guided tours. The Mānoa Falls are a short hike from here as well.
Experts In Their Field
If you’d like a knowledgeable guide to show you around the island and introduce you to our feathery friends, Oahu Nature Tours and Hawaii Birding Tours offers a selection of birding adventures for the amateur ornithologist and the intrepid sightseer.
Whenever we have bird-related questions, we turn to the experts at The Hawaii Audubon Society, a premier resource for birders. Be sure to visit their site and download their guide to Oahu birding tours, complete with driving directions.