Birds of Kīlauea Point
Each year, thousands of migratory seabirds use Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge for nesting, foraging, or resting. Laysan albatross, red-footed boobies, brown boobies, red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds, great frigatebirds, and wedge-tailed shearwaters all visit the refuge. In addition, migratory shorebirds, such as the kōlea can be seen August through May. A small population of endangered nēnē were reintroduced on the refuge in the 1990s and are continuing to do well.
‘A (Red-footed boobies) are Kīlauea's most visible seabird. They nest in trees and shrubs, incubating their eggs by covering then with their large, webbed feet. These birds stay closer to land than other Hawaiian seabirds, typically returning to their roosts at night.
Mō'lī (Laysan albatrosses) navigate across thousands of miles of open ocean to return to their nesting grounds, mostly on remote Pacific islands. They are famous for their elaborate courtship rituals, which include sky-pointing, bill-clapping, and bowing. Moli can be seen November – July at Kīlauea Point.
Ka‘upu (Black-footed albatrosses) are large, dark gray seabirds with white around bill and under eye that can occasionally be seen flying off of Kīlauea Point. Unlike the moli, it prefers windswept, sandy spots away from human habitation. A large population of ka‘upu nest on Midway Atoll.
‘A (Brown boobies) are frequently sighted fishing offshore and seen roosting along the Na Pali Coast, but they do not nest on Kaua‘i. In recent years, however, nesting sites have been observed on nearby islands.
‘Iwa (Great frigatebirds) are supremely adapted for flight, with a wingspan of 7 feet. This bird seldom lands on the water because its short legs and long wingspan make it very difficult to take off from the water. The ‘iwa snatches food from the water’s surface or forces other birds to drop their catch - earning its Hawaiian name ‘iwa which translates to "thief". ‘Iwa can be seen year-round at Kīlauea Point.
Koa‘e ‘ula (Red-tailed tropicbirds) are gull-sized birds with white plumage and long red tail streamers. Koa‘e ‘ula put on spectacular aerial courtship displays during their breeding season, and nest under shrubs and on cliffs.
Koa ‘e kea (White-tailed tropicbirds) are smaller than red-tailed tropicbirds. They nest on cliffs and can also be seen at Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast State Parks on Kaua‘i. They are gull-sized birds have white plumage and long tail streamers.
Nēnē (Hawaiian goose) have dark furrows on their cream colored necks, long legs, and reduced foot webbing. They feed on tender leaves, grasses, and berries. Nene disappeared 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.
Kōlea (Pacific golden plovers) migrate to Hawai‘i in the fall from their arctic breeding grounds. These shorebirds establish winter feeding territories on lawns and golf courses and natural habitats in open fields. Kōlea have a habit of running in short bursts, then stopping to search for insects. The kōlea can be seen August – April on Kaua‘i.
Ua‘u kani (Wedge-tailed shearwaters) spend the winter at sea, traveling as far as the Gulf of Panama, and return to Hawai‘i in the spring to breed. They nest in burrows that provide protection from predators and intense tropical weather. Adults leave the colony by day to fish and return at dusk to feed their chicks. At night, courting shearwaters make eerie moaning sounds, which inspired their Hawaiian name ‘ua‘u. ‘Ua‘u kani can be seen March – November.
‘A‘o (Newell's shearwater) is a medium-sized shearwater measuring 12 to 14 inches with a wing span of 30-35 inches. It has a glossy black back and white belly and a black bill that is sharply hooked at the tip. Its claws are well adapted for burrow excavation and climbing.
‘Ulili (Wandering tattler) is about the same size as the kōlea, 11 inches from bill to tail. They are slate-gray in color with very yellow legs.
‘Akekeke (Ruddy turnstone) is a small shorebird easily identified by the bold black and white pattern on its wings, and its black “necklace.” Named for its feeding behavior, the ruddy turnstone uses its strong neck and bill to turn over stones in search of prey. It can be seen year round on Kaua‘i but is abundant in spring and fall.