Readers’ wildlife photographs

Reader Ed Kroc sent some nice photos of the introduced birds of Hawaii. Granted, some of these are replacing or even extirpating the native species, but there’s no harm in looking at pretty birds! His notes are indented.

I sent shots of some native Hawaiian birds three months back, and here are finally some shots of a few of the introduced avian species that I encountered on my trip this past May. As I mentioned with the last photos, there are more introduced bird species in the Hawaiian Islands than native ones: about 70 to 50.

First up are two shots of a male Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos), native to the northern Indian subcontinent. Predictably, this species was introduced as a game bird to Hawaii. It’s now established itself quite comfortably in the forests at higher elevations on the volcano-sides (just like in its native range). This male was spotted with another male and one female along a trail in Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.

Kalij Pheasant 1

You’ll notice that this guy let me get extremely close. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that he got extremely close to me. It seems that they have learned that tourists are often good for a handout and this guy was surely expecting something from me. I find his red facial patch mesmerizing (note though, that the female of the species has the same kind of patch). He let me snap his picture for at least five minutes at about half an arm’s length away before a small pack of different tourists crunched into earshot up the trail. He quickly made his way up the path to meet them.

Kalij Pheasant 3
Next is an Erckel’s Francolin (Pternistis erckelii), not a true pheasant but a close relative. This species is native to a relatively small part of eastern Africa. Most of the approximately 40 francolin species are native to Africa, in fact. I found this guy when I got back to my car from hiking the same trail populated by the pheasants. I think he was checking the parking lot for food scraps. As you can tell, he also didn’t mind me getting close.

Erckels Francolin

Elsewhere in the national park I caught a glimpse of a red fluttering thing in the overhanging brush. I stopped and prepared to shoot, thinking I may have gotten lucky and stumbled into the vicinity of a native honeycreeper. Much to my shock, down peered a rather impish and very much out of place Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)! I had no idea this common species (North American) had been introduced to the islands before I met this guy in the bush. They may not be native, but damn if they don’t look good anywhere.

Northern Cardinal

In the city of Kailua-Kona stands the first Christian church ever built in the Hawaiian Islands (completed in 1837). While most tourists were understandably taking pictures of the nice-looking stone chapel, I was instead occupied with a family of Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis) puttering about the asphalt driveway leading up to the church. The father (with the brightly coloured eye patch) and his single fledgling are pictured. Dad had just shoved some discarded pastry bits into the fledgling’s mouth. It seemed that the fledgling had very recently left the nest as s/he was very excited by just about everything, hopping on top and falling off of rocks in the churchyard and chasing after his/her parents on foot as they deftly avoided the foot traffic. They learn about tourists from day one out of the nest here. This species is native to much of southern and central Asia.

Common Myna

Just off the beach at Punalu’u, I came across a lovely Yellow-fronted Canary (Serinus mozambicus). As you can tell from the binomial, the bird’s native range is in Africa, most of the subsaharan part of the continent in fact. Many beautiful passerines have been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, where they seem to blend in effortlessly with the tropical scenery.

Yellow-fronted Canary

In Honolulu, I snapped a photo of a gorgeous male Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola), a tanager native to much of South America. The picture doesn’t do him justice. The males of this species look like winged watercolours. They seem to have a fondness for plumeria blossoms (one is seen fallen in the grass in the background). Seeing a flock of these birds feasting on the colourful plumerias is too pretty a picture to describe, and no photograph I could get captured it at all, sadly.

Saffron Finch

Finally, a Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), native to the Indian subcontinent, but with established introduced populations on three other continents. You can actually see his/her eponym clearly in the shot. I often wouldn’t see it until the bird fluttered away. This shot was taken in the middle of the Honolulu airport while waiting for a flight. Amazingly, the Honolulu airport has many outdoor areas, and several wonderful outdoor gardens that you can access ***after*** you have passed security, meaning you can step outside, breathe some fresh air, spy on a few birds, and even feel some raindrops all while waiting to board. I think we should mandate that all airports provide accessible outdoor space to travelers at the gates. It would certainly make the process of flying a lot less suffocating!

Red-vented Bulbul


  1. Posted September 2, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I notice there are no pictures of Brazilian Cardinals. Did you see any? They are all over the place on Kauai.

    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Yes, lots of Red-crested and Yellow-billed Cardinals, but I couldn’t get any pictures that I thought were good enough. They did not seem to like posing for the camera!

      • Posted September 2, 2016 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        I’ve had that problem, too. They’re good looking birds, though.

  2. Posted September 2, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Excellent writing and photos! Thanks. I just saw a Saffron Finch yesterday in Puerto Maldonado, Peru, where they are native. (I’m excited to be heading for the macaw clay licks in the Tambopata reserve tomorrow…..)

    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! The west coast countries of S. America are #1 on my list of places to go. Have you ever seen Andean Gulls nesting where you are?

      • Posted September 2, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        I have seen them often, and they must have been on nests in the Laguna Limpiopungo in Cotopaxi National Park (easily accessible by car), but I have not actually seen the nests.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Beautiful pictures! Thanks. It would be surprising to see a cardinal in a tropical paradise. We have some nesting in our back yard here in Michigan.

    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Thanks! I didn’t see any Northern Cardinals my first time in Hawaii, so I was not at all expecting them on this second trip.

  4. Posted September 2, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I had to smile. The first Red-vented Bulbul I ever saw was at an airport, too, in Fiji.

  5. Posted September 2, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Nice photos! I love Hawaii.

    Not just the airport. The whole place seems like a different country from the rest of the USA.

    I remember bicycling around the Big Island and knowing when we approaching road works — from the reefer smoke wafting to us from the “work” site.

    I think we should mandate that all airports provide accessible outdoor space to travelers at the gates. It would certainly make the process of flying a lot less suffocating!

    A fine idea; but not one likely to come to pass. Having worked in the aerospace industry for a long time, including having credentials to “walk the tarmac” around the airplanes (doing maintenance and inspection work as an engineer), that real estate is extremely valuable and very unlikely to be used for anything not purely utilitarian. Unfortunately. I think HON is just a lucky accident — it got made that way early and has been retained.

    I love HON, if for no other reason that most of it (last time I was there — pre-9/11) didn’t have windows/walls, and the tropical vegetation smells wafted though it.

    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

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    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure you are right about the real estate, sadly, but I do ache for just a step outside when spending all day between airplanes and airports. Honolulu’s airport still has lots of open-air. There are plenty of ultra-air-conditioned spaces too, but the walkways between terminals are outside, and there are several large garden areas next to the terminals. Definitely the nicest airport I’ve seen.

  6. Posted September 2, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I am surprised that Honolulu airport has gardens with birds. I thought that all airports try to keep birds as far away as possible, to avoid collision with planes.

    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      In general you’re right, but small birds that live singly or in small family groups aren’t likely to be a problem to big planes. The real risks are big birds like geese and pelicans, or birds that make huge flocks, like starlings and blackbirds.

    • Posted September 2, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      In Quito we have a resident falconer, Ruth Muniz Lopez, who chases birds away from the runways with trained hawks.

  7. keith cook +/-
    Posted September 2, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Nice shooting, Thanks.

  8. Posted September 3, 2016 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    This is one hell of wicked writing and photography skills.

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