Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
he volcano, Mauna Kea, and the Pacific Ocean offer spectacular scenes in opposite directions from the forested slopes of the Big Island. In the spectacular tract of native forest protected as Hakalau Forest, birders find some of the most beautiful and unique birds found anywhere. Hawaiian honeycreepers have evolved in vivid red, yellow and olive colors with diverse bill shapes -- long, short, thin and curved, and short and broad bills -- that allow each species to feed on different foods in areas they cohabit. The native names of these spectacular birds, so foreign-sounding to haolis (mainland birders), include I'iwis, Apapanes, Hawaiian Amakihis, Omaos, Elepaio, Akepas, Hawaii Creepers and the infamous "Akis" (short for Akiapolaaus).
Other native birds can be seen along the way to the forest edge, including Hawaiian Hawks, Hawaiian Ducks and, if you are lucky, a Hawaiian Owl. A number of introduced species can also be seen, such as Sky Larks, Erkel's Francolins, Chukars and Japanese White-eyes.
This unique forest refuge is a short drive west of Hilo, or across the Saddle Road east of Kona. Hakalau Forest should rank high on every birder's list of things to do in Hawaii. For more information, contact Hakalau Forest NWR (808) 933-6915; and Hawaii Forest and Trails (800) 464-1993.
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