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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!