Wildlife & Habitat
Hanalei NWR was established under the Endangered Species Act to conserve five endangered waterbirds that rely on the Hanalei Valley for nesting and feeding habitat: the ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt), ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), ‘alae ‘ula (Hawaiian moorhen), nēnē (Hawaiian goose), and the largest population of the koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck) in the world.
The refuge also provides valuable nesting, feeding, and resting habitat for 45 other species of birds (18 of which are introduced species).
Ae‘o - The stilt's Hawaiian name "one standing tall" aptly describes this black and white bird with its long, slender pink legs.
‘Alae ke‘oke‘o - Hawai‘i's endemic coot can be recognized by its white bulbous frontal shield and bill, which contrast with its dark slate-gray body.
‘Alae ‘ula - Also known as the Hawaiian Gallinule, this elusive waterbird is endemic to Hawai‘i and inhabits the wetlands at Hanalei NWR. The moorhen has a distinct red frontal shield with a yellow tip on its bill and can be seen walking across floating vegetation with its long, unwebbed toes.
Koloa maoli - Both male and female have orange legs and feet and resemble small female mallards.
Nēnē - Identified by dark furrows on their cream-colored necks, long legs, and reduced foot webbing, nēnē feed on tender leaves, grasses, and berries. Nēnē were extirpated from Kaua‘i centuries ago. With the escape of captive pairs into the wild in 1982 and active reintroduction efforts, they are now making a comeback.
Shorebirds seen in Hawai‘i are migrants. They breed in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia and spend their winters in the tropics. At Hanalei NWR, they forage at the outlet and mudflats on the refuge, picking invertebrates and small fish from the mud and shallow water. They may also be seen in the fields, foraging for insects
Kōlea - Both males and females come back to the same territory in Hawai‘i year after year, and each spring around April 25, the kōlea leave their wintering grounds for nesting grounds in Alaska and Siberia. It takes the plovers two full days to reach their destination flying nonstop at approximately 60 mph.
‘Akekeke (Ruddy turnstone) - The ruddy turnstone is named ‘akekeke in Hawaiian for its call - a rapidly repeated trill. These birds are also found in Hawaiian legends as messengers of the gods along with the kōlea and the ‘ulili. Hawaiian chiefs and gods sent these intelligent and strong birds over the open ocean on important assignments.
‘Ulili (Wandering tattler) - In Hawaiian culture, the ‘ulili was one of the sacred messengers and scouts. Likewise, in English, it was nicknamed ‘tattler’ by hunters because it is a good ‘watch-bird,’ alarming all the other birds when hunters or predators are nearby.