While there are only two mammals native to Hawaii, the Hawaiian monk seal (click for a photo) and the Hawaiian hoary bat, the islands are full of birds. The Hawaiian moorhen and nene enjoy browsing the daily menu of grub in the muck of the lush taro fields, farmer-made wetlands for enterprising wildlife. But one need not pull on rubber boots to find birds. Only listen for the annoying scream of chainsaws, constant on an island with falling coconuts for safety hazards, and you'll see egrets near. The geckos are scared from their coconut tree perch, and must run the gauntlet through a crowd of egrets that gather to snatch them up. Or, if you are a particularly lazy bird-watcher, just go to the beach. It's not uncommon to stretch out under the sun with a book, and then turn over to find that you are sharing your beach blanket with a feral chicken. The chickens were introduced by Polynesian settlers before more European fowl were brought onto the island, and now have free rein over the island.
Our favorite spottings on our trip to Kauai were probably the wedge-tailed shearwaters (see our pics of the adorable chicks below). Shearwaters are monogamous birds, and dig burrows in the ground for nests. Mom and Dad share the workload by taking turns incubating the eggs. The hatchlings are curious, sweet, and brave: because their parents fly off before they have fully fledged, they must learn to fly on their own. When shearwaters first take wing, they often do so at night, following the light of the moon out to sea. Unfortunately, bright city lights often confuse the seabirds and they sometimes fall inland, and once on the ground, cannot take off. Many fire stations have aid stations where fallen birds can be delivered. It's easy to admire these little birds' courageous spirit, as they venture off into the wide world, all alone, but with plenty of heart.
Got a good bird story? We'd love to hear it -- please leave a comment :)
Have a lovely weekend everyone!
Sam + Ariel