The Big Island of Hawaii is a treasure trove of amazing birdwatching hotspots. From lowland rainforest areas with century-old ohia trees to spectacular sandy beaches with stunning sea views, there’s something for everyone when spotting the island’s incredible feathered friends. Whether you’re a birder just starting or an experienced photographer wanting to capture beautiful shots in wild and remote places, this blog outlines some of the best locations to observe birds in their natural habitat on the Big Island.
Types Of Birds You Can See On The Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii is home to a vast variety of bird species, making it one of the premier birdwatching locations in the world. From native Hawaiian birds, like I’iwi and Apapane, to soaring Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and sprightly Yellow-faced Honeycreepers, you will undoubtedly find something interesting during your stay on the Big Island.
For more adventurous bird watchers, you can observe Northern Cardinals in their unique habitat, or lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of a Red-footed Boobie–one of nature’s genuine oddities! No matter what type of bird you choose to observe on the Big Island, you will surely be delighted by its beauty, form, and grace.
Big Island Bird Watching Hotspot
Finding the right location is one of the most significant parts of bird watching. The Big Island has excellent sites and places to observe birds, but some are better than others. Here are a few of the top birdwatching destinations on the Big Island:
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a birder’s paradise, housing an incredible variety of unique species that can’t be found anywhere else. With its different climates and terrains, from steamy rainforests to alpine meadows and deserts, it’s a perfect spot for seeking out some of the rarest birds on the planet. Some of the more popular sightings one could hope for include the ‘Apapane, ‘I’iwi, Hawai’i’ Amakihi, Hawai’i Elepaio, Nene, and plenty of other endemic species.
The park also provides spectacular landscapes for birders to explore – not just with regards to avifauna but also in terms of active volcanic sites such as Kilauea and Mauna Loa. With so much to see and plenty of well-maintained trails throughout the park, it’s no wonder why birding enthusiasts make a point to visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park at least once in their lifetime.
Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
Nestled on the slopes of Mauna Kea, Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge is a paradise for birdwatchers. Its diverse, lower-elevation coastal forests provide homes to endangered Hawaiian honeycreepers and numerous rare birds and other wildlife. The high elevation combined with unique microclimates gives birdsong a special melodiousness rarely heard elsewhere, creating an unforgettable experience for any who visit this Nature Conservancy refuge.
Birdwatchers will also be pleased to find many trails in the refuge that contribute to better presentation and viewing of species here, allowing them to have up close and personal encounters with some of the most beautiful bird species in the world.
Hilo Ponds overlooks Hilo Bay, which attracts a diversity of shorebirds, ducks, and herons during the migratory season. Multiple habitats also draw an array of distinct birds, including extensive emergent wetlands, open marshes, mudflats, and swamps; this area provides refuge for many species all year round. With plenty of trees and vegetation in the nearby forests, home to smaller birds of all colors, there’s something for everyone at the Hilo Ponds.
In addition to its dazzling array of birds, the park provides multiple viewpoints from which to view them throughout the day. Whether you’re just starting out as a birdwatcher or a seasoned veteran looking for new observations and identifications, heading out on a journey at Hilo Ponds is sure to please!
Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant
The Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant is an invaluable spot for birdwatchers looking to observe Hawaii’s unique avian species. Since its inception, the plant’s staff has carefully managed the land with conservation efforts in mind, creating tranquil and inviting spots where algae-eating shorebirds can feed and rest. Not only has the plant become a haven for several endemic species, such as the ‘Akeke’e and the Nene, but its brackish ponds have also become famous breeding grounds for migratory birds and seabirds.
With over 75 bird species spotted since 2007 in this isolated area of West Hawaii, it is an ideal place for visitors to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitats. From rare waterfowl to abundant albatrosses, there’s something new to discover every time you take a trip out to Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant, making it a paradise for any birdwatcher.
Waiakea Pond in Hilo offers an exciting opportunity for birdwatchers of any skill level. With its proximity to the ocean and rich diversity of vegetation, this picturesque pond is home to various local and migratory birds. Visitors can watch for species such as the crested honeycreeper, pueo, iiwi, Elepaio, ‘amakihi, Japanese white-eye, and Mariana fruit doves. Numerous shorebirds like alae Ula or Black-necked stilts also thrive in the shallow waters.
It’s especially quiet during sunrise and sunset hours when the birds are most active, so it’s worth setting your alarm early to watch them! What’s more – not only can you enjoy stunning views of Mauna Kea. At the same time, birdwatching at Waiakea Pond, but with enough patience, you can also see some of Hawaii’s most marvelous avian species.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Situated on the west coast of Hawai’i Island, the park is known for its wide variety of birds, both migratory and native, that frequent the area throughout the year. Its location gives it access to ideal spots for nesting and breeding – from forests perched atop higher ground to the shallow coastal regions around Honokohau Harbor. Additional attractions include large ponds favored by ducks and geese – providing excellent opportunities to observe and appreciate many species in their natural habitats.
Looking out across the harbor or into the flora-filled forest valleys offers priceless moments and perspectives as handcrafted by nature. While birdwatching at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, visitors learn about indigenous Hawaiian culture, history, and customs along their journey – adding depth and uniqueness to an already exhilarating experience.
View Stunning Species At These Birdwatching Hotspots!
The truth is the birdwatching hotspots around the big island are virtually endless! From the wetlands of Hilo Ponds to the historic Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant, a wide variety of species can be discovered in some lovely places. Whether you’re an experienced birder or just looking for a new hobby, what better place to explore than Hawaii’s majestic island? With its stunning landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and plentiful opportunities for sightings, there’s a lot to be excited about!