|the endemic Hawaiian Stilt, still considered a Black-necked Stilt but I feel it will be split down the road|
During our first days on Maui, we'd explore golf courses and ponds for several important birds. These birds are considered endemics to the island/island chain. And there's nothing quite like finding endemic birds in Hawaii. The honeycreepers of Hawaii are the true endemics, but anything introduced by the Polynesians are also considered endemics. Let's travel together from pond to pond on Maui and discover some great birds.....
There are TWO truly outstanding ponds on Maui that birders need to visit for several important birds. They are the Kealia and Kanaha State Pond Wildlife Sanctuaries. Both are great places to pick up some important birds.
|the vast Kealia Pond|
These "ponds" are extremely important conservation areas due to Hawaii's limited amount of coastal salt water marshes. These birds are all threatened but have a stable population on 3 of the main islands, Maui, Kaua'i and O'ahu, with Maui being the best place to view them all. I enjoyed Kealia Pond for the informaton and walk. I suspect it's a great place for wintering ducks.
|After we shopped at Costco, we stopped at Kanaha State Pond to observe some great birds and look at the cloud cover of West Maui. It's very breezy here and was an enjoyable place to relax and bird.|
|the Pacific golden plover was a treat to see off in the distance.|
|the Hawaiian Coot, unlike the stilts, maintains its unique species status|
During our time there, we only saw them once and it was because we made the effort. Had we not gone off course, we would have never seen these birds. They are also reported up at Haleakala National Park around the visitor's center. According to park officials, their populations have been forced up to the higher elevations thanks in part to introduced predators like the rat and mongoose. Their populations stand today at around 2500 birds. However, when Captain Cook arrived to the islands back in 1778, it was estimated that there were as many as 25000 birds on the islands. So I knew our quest on Maui was going to be a challenge.
|Java Sparrows, or really Java Finches, rock!|
One of the exotics that I was really hoping to observe was the Java Sparrow. It is also listed as vulnerable in its native lands of Java, Bali and a part of Indonesia. But they are doing VERY well on Maui as an introduced species:) While making breakfast one morning, I had one come to my window and it made me smile. PS. This is not a true sparrow but rather a finch species. But back to the Nene......
I found this golf course from an aerial view of a map near our apartment. It was our first attempt and I thought, why not? We searched for a body of water and fate would have us view the world's most endangered goose! There were two of them and it was exciting. This was a bird I really wanted to observe and we were given great views. During the rest of our stay, I searched all the golf ponds that followed afterwards to see if we could spot more of these birds, and unfortunately, we never saw this species again. Not even up at Haleakala National Park where they are commonly seen!
|the Nene or Hawaiian Goose|
This year, I have seen THREE birds with the word Cardinal in their name, the Northern Cardinal, the Masked Cardinal(Trinidad) and now, the Red-crested Cardinal. All of these exotic birds were found feeding around the grassy golf course areas.
I'd spot more exotics and get frustrated. Several of these exotics have been classified as invasive in that they are chasing the smaller endemic honeycreepers out of their territories! But then I'd see this adorable pair of Japanese white-eyes and think, ok, this is really cute. But the birder inside of me knows that this shouldn't be cute and that it's scary to see everything on the island, at every habitat location, FULL of these birds.
Years ago, I wrote about the rare exotic Spotted Doves of southern California. They have all but disappeared from that region except for Catalina Island. But since the ABA(the American Birding Association) has opened Hawaii up to the "birder's game", an ABA lister should have NO problem finding these birds next to their Zebra Dove friends.
Last but not least, I need to write about these ducks you see on all of the islands around the golf course ponds. It should be assumed that all of the ducks are a Mallard x Hawaiian Duck hybrid. Why? Well apparently people thought introducing Mallards to the golf courses was a great idea. Once again, humanity mucks it up. Today, the endemic Hawaiian Duck faces extinction due to Mallard hybridization. This story is similar to the American Black Duck one. And the simple fact is that Mallards hybridize with pretty much everything. Mottled Ducks, Mexican Ducks, Hawaiian Ducks, and American Black Ducks all have similar appearances. On Maui, it is assumed that all ducks are hybrids now.
The Hawaiian duck has a bold to faint ring around the eye. It's overall brown and dark. The last true places to find these birds are on the island of Kaua'i and a few places on O'ahu. On our way out of Hawaii, I was able to spy a female Hawaiian Duck fly into the Japanese Tea Garden of the airport. There it took a bath while I ate my lunch.
|a female Hawaiian Duck|
In Arizona, beginning some time this month, if you find a pure Mexican Mallard in southern Arizona, you'll be able to count it on Ebird! But you have to be careful because it's much like the Hawaiian Duck or Olympus Gull up in the Northwest of the US where ranges overlap and hybridization occurs. Mallards are iconic to ponds and watering holes but they are also invasive!
|My Hawaiian Duck find|
For the Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, click here.
For the Kahili Golf Course, click here.
For Kealia Pond, click here.