The island of Kaua’i is the oldest and northernmost island of the Hawaiian chain of islands. It is often called the “Garden Island” due to its lack of densely populated land and the fact that it is covered by picturesque canyons, valleys, mountains, cliffs, tropical rainforests, rivers, and waterfalls. With 80% of the island being uninhabited, some parts of the island are only accessible by sea or air. Kaua’i encompasses 552 square miles and is divided into 5 main regions: Lihue, the East Side, the North Shore, the South Shore, and the West Side.
Kaua’i is home to 2 beautiful birding hotspots that are a must for anyone visiting: Koke‘e State Park, and Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Koke’e State Park has an extensive network of trails that allows hikers, avid bird watchers, and photographers alike an up-close view of many endemic species only found on Kaua’i. Its high elevation at 4,000 feet allows for unique and relatively easy bird watching where you can spot the Kaua’i Elepaio, Kaua’i Amakihi, the Hawaiian Short-eared Owl (known locally as Pueo), and more. Birders are also able to look for the I’iwi, Akeke’e, Akikiki, and Puaiohi, though nowadays, these four species are now extremely rare and most are rapidly declining due to avian malaria.
Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 203 acres and is located on the cliffs of Kaua’i’s northern coast. The refuge is home to some of the largest populations of nesting seabirds on the island, as well as several species that are rare or have restricted distribution. The entire refuge is surrounded in predator-proof fencing to keep out feral cats, mongoose, and other invasive mammals that threaten nesting seabirds. The most numerous nesting species on the refuge is the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, with an estimated 8,000-15,000 breeding pairs. However, a visit here will provide birders with great views of Laysan Albatross, Red-footed Boobies, Great Frigatebirds, Red-tailed Tropicbirds, and more.
Owen traveled to the island of Kaua’i in March 2022.