Kauai Birds

I'iwi BIrd Kauai

I’iwi Bird ~ Kauai Native

I'iwi BIrd Kauai

The Native I’iwi Bird on Kauai – courtesy photo of the Audobon Society

Above is the beautiful I’iwi bird, native to the Hawaiian islands and found mostly in Koke’e and some other higher mountainous regions these days.     Look at that color!    It’s sad that many of Kauai’s native birds are either extinct (see below) or just not as prevalent as they used to be.    Some say this is due to the invasive species of birds, but I think it’s more to do with chemical sprays than birds.

Elepaio ~ Kauai Native

The Elepaio is a lovely small bird, a flycatcher.   According to the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project.   the ‘Elepaio played an important role in Hawaiian mythology; they were thought of as the guiding spirit (‘aumakua) of canoe makers.  ‘Elepaio can be found on the islands of Hawai’i, O’ahu and Kaua’i.    Once they were found at all elevations but now they can now only be found in the higher elevations in forests, so in Koke’e and Alaka’i on Kauai.    So pay attention when you are hiking in those areas, this is a true Kauai native bird.    There is a Kauai sub species is endemic to Kauai only.  Thank you to Studio Elepaio for the beautiful photo

Elepaio by Studio Elepaio

Elepaio bird
Photo by & Courtesy of Studio Elepaio

It’s magical to see an I’iwi or Elepaio when you are out hiking but I can’t deny that it’s also wonderful be sitting in your yard and suddenly there’s a flash of red in the plumeria and there’s a bright Red Northern Cardinal or Red Crested Cardinal.

Red Crested Cardinal

Red Crested Cardinal

The distinct Red Crested Cardinal on Kauai

Though they are both not native to Kauai, they have certainly established themselves in the islands and are thought by many to be native.

The native Kauaian birds tend to be a bit more elusive and are to be found more in the mountain areas along tropical hikes rather than near the ocean and in back yards.    The Shama bird however, hangs out quite a bit in your back yard and even at the beach.



Japanese White Eye

Japanese White Eye

Cute & perky Japanese White Eye

Kauai still has many beautiful birds though and I am so grateful that I can still wake up and listen to the Shama bird singing or the Admiral bird or the bright red Northern cardinal or the Red Crested cardinal (so pretty!) . Both these last were introduced to Kauai .    As was the Japanese white eye – tiny little green birds with white around the eyes,,I love them!



Shama Bird

Kauai Shama Bird

Shama Bird on Kauai ~ beautiful song!

I’m not an ornithologist or even a bird watcher, but I do love birds.     You will find Shamas all over the island and you will notice the Shamas in particular even at the beach . arguing over some food left by someone or just passing the time of day.    They have a kind of “screechy” call when they appear to be arguing but they also have one of the most beautiful songs among the birds on island.    Love listening to them.

Nene ~ Official “Bird of Kauai”

There is the Nene, which is the official bird of Kauai and was reintroduced to Kauai this last century.   This is a goose and  you will see them hanging out quite freely even in Princeville and near the Kilauea refuge and other parts of the island.   They can be quite feisty so be careful approaching them!

Kauai Nene

The Nene ~ Official “BIrd of Kauai”

They had to be re-introduced into Kauai after becoming extinct early in the last century.   This was done with one pair, so the story goes, from the UK where their ancestors had been taken some years before.  The Nene is the official “bird of Kauai”.   yes, the Nene, not the chicken.    Kauai also has a native Owl, the only bird of prey, the “Pueo” in Hawaiian.

White Egret (or Cattle bird)

The Egrets are also everywhere, especially when a grass cutter is at work: swooping dangerously close to those sharp blades just to retrieve some juicy worm or bug unearthed by the action of the machine.    They also frequent the beaches too so watch out for these elegant white beauties.    They are also known as the “cattle bird” as they will also perch on cows for long periods of time.    Perhaps they are ridding the cows of tasty bugs or they just like the ride?

Strangely enough, you will sometimes see them in the night sky…. I used to think they might be Eagles or bats, but no, you will notice white Egrets in the sky at night sometimes.

Kauai Egret flying

White Egret on Kauai

Laysan’s Albatross

During the winter, (November to July ) the magnificent Albatross come and nest on Kauai.     One pair at a time, they nest on the ground which is why you will see signs around warning you not to get too close to a particular area.    I remember one day driving up Ka Haku Road in Princeville and people were gathering at a certain point to marvel at a pair of Albatross who had chosen right there, 6 feet from the road, to nest and guard their little one.

Laysan Albatross Kauai

The Laysan Albatross which nests on Kauai in the Winter

Sea birds on Kauai abound :  Shearwaters, Frigate birds, Petrols, Iwas (those black winged birds shaped in a very definitive v),  Sandpipers who run across the sand at a rate of knots… it’s quite a show.


The Last Call of the O’o bird, Kauai Native

This is supposed to be a happy post about birds on Kauai… and it is…. but I have to mention that I just watched a video and listened to the call of the last “O’o bird” on Kauai.    Really sad.    As with birds all over the planet, we are losing them fast.

So a small request.    Please be aware that using commercial sunscreen (that’s every brand except organic ones) contain chemicals that are killing the reefs but also the birds.    Please Kokua (Hawaiian word roughly translated as help but in this sense : Please do the right thing and care for the “aina”) .    Mahalo!


About the Author

Kauai Advisor ~ Francesca Azuremare ~ has lived on Kauai for 22 years. I feel blessed to live in such a magical, beautiful place. Over the years I have helped thousands of people find the perfect place to stay on Kauai whilst also advising on everything from places to propose to the best Na Pali boat ride. Now I'm sharing that information here. It's the Hawaiian way. Aloha!