Oahu, Hawaii is home to many different species of birds. Some of these birds are native to the island, while others have been introduced. Native birds include the Hawaiian honeycreeper and the nene.
Introduced birds include the red-billed leiothrix, Japanese white-eye, and rose-ringed parakeet. Birds can be found in many different habitats on the island, from the rainforests to the beaches.
Below we’ll look at some common bird species of Oahu, their coloring habitats, nesting habits and more.
List of Birds in Oahu
1. Hawaiian Coot (Alae Kea)
Hawaiian coots, also known as the alae kea, are birds that are endemic to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu.
These birds of Oahu are easy to identify. Adults are dark gray to black in color with a white bill and red eyes. Note, the white coloring extends from the bill to the front of its head. On average, an adult measures 13-16 inches in length.
The alae kea has been known to live in both fresh and saltwater habitats. It is considered an important part of the ecosystem of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. The bird helps to control populations of insects and other pests.
The coot is also a food source for many predators.
2. Pacific Golden Plover
Looking for shore birds of Oahu? The Pacific golden plover is a small shorebird that breeds in winters on this island. It is a popular bird for birders.
The Pacific golden plover is a little over nine inches long and has a wingspan of about 24 inches. The back and wings are golden-brown, and the belly is grayish for the non-breeding birds and black for breeding birds. Note the prominent white stripe that extends from its head to the sides. The legs are long and dark.
The Pacific golden plover feeds on insects, larvae, and other small invertebrates. It uses its long bill to probe in the sand for food. It nests on the ground, usually in open areas near water. The female lays three to five eggs in a cup-shaped nest made of grasses and leaves.
Also, these Hawaiian birds are known to gain weight when on the island in preparation for breeding season that happens in the arctic.
3. Zebra Dove
First introduced to all the islands in the early 1900s, the Zebra Dove is a common bird species that favors open county. And you can also spot them in parks as well as gardens.
The zebra dove is a small, striped bird and is a member of the pigeon family. It is related to other doves such as the rock pigeon.
This bird is grayish brown overall with white and black barring. It also spots a long tail and a span of 9.4 inches.
The zebra dove is a timid bird and is usually found in pairs or small flocks. Its consists mainly of weed seeds and grass. Breeding season starts in September up to June. Males have an elaborate mating dance that has them bowing and cooing, trying to attract a female.
When on the ground, it’s hard to spot them as their plumage helps them blend in with the surroundings.
4. Rose-ringed Parakeet
How did rose-ringed parakeets get to Hawaii? These birds are an introduced species. First brought to Hawaii in the 1960’s, these birds were brought to the island as pets.
Some birds were accidentally released to the wild due to Hurricane Iwa and because of their fast reproduction rate, the rose-ringed parakeet became an invasive species.
The rose-ringed parakeet, also known as the ring-necked parakeet, is a medium-sized parrot with a long tail and distinctive green body. The adult male has a black neck ring and the female and immature birds do not spot one.
They are popular as pets due to their playful nature and ability to mimic human speech. Rose-ringed parakeets are social birds that live in flocks of up to 30 individuals.
They nest in tree cavities and typically lay 4-6 eggs per clutch. These birds feed on fruits, seeds, nuts, and flowers. In Oahu, they are considered pests due to their tendency to damage crops.
5. Hawaiian Hawk (‘io)
Hawaiian hawks are endemic birds that can be found in different Hawaiian Islands. How can you identify these birds?
This bird of prey is a member of the Buteo genus that also includes the red-tailed hawk and red-shouldered hawk. The Hawaiian hawk is a medium-sized hawk, with a body length of 16-18 inches and a wingspan of 33-36 inches. The hawks are typically brownish-gray in color, with lighter underparts and a whitish throat.
These birds prefer wet forests on all of the main islands except for Kaua’i. Diet consists mostly of rodents and lizards, but they will also take birds, snakes, and insects. The Hawaiian hawk breeds from March to September, with females laying 1-3 eggs per clutch.
6. Red-crested Cardinal
Red crested cardinals are one of the most beautiful and popular birds in North America. These stunning little creatures are an introduced species of Oahu.
These red head birds of Hawaii are easy to identify. They spot a red head, white below and grayish back with black-tipped wings and tail. The red crested cardinal is a member of the songbird family, and its distinctive call is one of the many things that make it such a special bird.
These birds spend most of their lives close to lakes, marshes and rivers. They were first introduced to Oahu in 1930. These Oahu birds are gregarious, often forming large flocks. These birds are not shy, and they will often approach humans in search of food.
7. Hawaiian Duck (Koloa Maoli)
Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaiian duck, also known as koloa maoli, is a species of duck that has a very distinctive plumage
The Kaloa maoli male is about 19 inches in length while females are about 15 inches. Adult male duck is slightly larger than the female. Adults have a mottled brown plumage with green-blue speculum feathers.
These birds of Oahu are one of the most endangered waterfowl in the United States. The koloa maoli are shy and secretive birds that are seldom seen in open areas. They prefer to stay hidden in dense vegetation near ponds and streams.
These birds are known for soft quacks and calls. They feed on insect larvae, snails, grass seeds and green algae.
8. Hawaiian Petrel (ʻuaʻu)
The Hawaiian petrel is a species of seabird that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. The bird is also known as the ʻuaʻu, and is the only member of the genus Pterodroma that breeds in Hawaii.
These Oahu birds are black above and white below, and have a wingspan of approximately three feet. Note its white face.
The bird’s diet consists mainly of small fish, squid, and crustaceans. The Hawaiian petrel was once abundant throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but the species has declined sharply in recent years.
The main threats to the Hawaiian petrel are introduced predators such as cats, which prey on chicks and eggs. Other threats include habitat loss due to development and human activity, as well as fishing nets and other marine debris.
9. Great Frigatebird
Frigatebirds are amazing creatures. They are one of the largest flying birds in the world, with a wingspan of up to 91 inches. They can live for up to 40 years, and spend most of their lives flying over the oceans in search of food.
Frigatebirds get their name from their long, narrow wings, which allow them to fly great distances with little effort. These birds of Oahu Hawaii are mostly black with a red throat pouch.
During breeding season, males distend the gular sac to attract females. On the other hand, female great frigatebirds have a white throat and an all black body.
Their diet consists mostly of fish and squid, which they catch by swooping down on them from above the water’s surface. Frigatebirds are fascinating animals, and are well worth learning more about.
10. Red-whiskered Bulbul
Found in all the islands of Hawaii, the red whiskered bulbul is a small passerine bird that is an introduced species.
Its body averages 7-8.5 inches in length. The adult has a black head and upperparts, with a white throat and belly. Note the red face patches and undertail coverts. Both sexes spot a crest similar to the red crested cardinal.
These forest birds can also be found in urban areas. They consume insects, berries and small fruits. During nesting season, they build nests in trees or shrubs, and the female lays 2-4 eggs, pinkish eggs with purple-red spots.
11. Hawaiian Stilt (Ae’O)
Hawaiian stilts are endemic wading birds of Oahu. The scientific name of the Hawaiian stilt is Himantopus mexicanus knudseni.
This species is black and white with a long, thin black bill. Notice the white face and white spot above the eyes. The legs are extremely long, pink and thin. The average length of the Hawaiian stilt is about 16 inches. These birds weigh between 4-5 ounces.
The diet of the Hawaiian stilt consists mostly of invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. They will also eat small fish, frogs, and lizards.
These birds forage in both fresh and saltwater habitats. The Hawaiian stilt breeds from March to August. The female will build a nest out of vegetation near water.
12. Fulvous Whistling-Duck
A Fulvous Whistling-Duck is a species of duck that is often found in small groups. What do these ducks look like?
The bird is easily identified by its brown-black back, brown belly and orangish-brown head. Their bodies are 18-21 inches in length but females are less heavier. These birds also spot wide webbed legs and a thick gray bill.
The bird gets its name from its whistling call, which is made by both males and females. It is an excellent swimmer and diver, and it often feeds on aquatic plants and insects.
During breeding season, pairs select a site together, make a platform nest and then females lay up to 20 eggs. The buffy white colored eggs take up to 3 weeks to hatch.
13. Northern Cardinal
From Western North America to wet forests of Oahu, Northern cardinals are some of the most common backyard birds.
The northern cardinal is the state bird of seven states, and its distinctive red coloration makes it one of the most easily recognizable birds in the continent. Cardinals are relatively small songbirds, and they are a member of the family Cardinalidae, which also includes grosbeaks and finches.
Their body is overall red with a gorgeous black face and red beak. Females are brownish with a red crest and bill.
Cardinals are found in woodlands, gardens, and backyards throughout Oahu. They typically mate for life, and they build their nests in trees or shrubs. Females lay 3-4 eggs per clutch, and incubate them for 12-13 days. Both parents help to feed the nestlings until they fledge at about 2 weeks old.
14. Scarlet Honeycreeper (I’iwi)
We recently looked at the i’iwi or scarlet honeycreeper in our list of Kauai birds. We’ve also included it in this list because they are also present in this big island.
Though their numbers have been declining, these birds are still a sight to behold. With their striking red plumage and long tails, Scarlet Honeycreepers are one of the most eye-catching birds in Oahu.
They also have a long curved bill and black wings with a white patches.
Their long curved bills allow them to feed on nectar, arthropods, and fruit. Unfortunately, Scarlet Honeycreepers are now considered to be endangered. Their numbers have declined sharply due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
However, there is still hope for these beautiful birds. With conservation efforts, we can help ensure that the Scarlet Honeycreeper does not disappear from the big islands forever.
15. Japanese White Eye
Is the Japanese white-eye native to Hawaii? No, this bird was introduced to the islands in 1929. This small bird is also known as the warbling white-eye or mountain white-eye.
The Japanese white eye is a small, songbird species that has a small, round body and a short tail. The plumage is mostly olive green above and palish below. There are white rings around the eyes, which give the bird its name.
The Japanese white eye is a social creature and often seen in flocks. The diet of this Oahu bird consists of insects, nectar, and fruit. They are monogamous with nest construction taking up to 10 days.
16. Laysan Albatross
Laysan albatross are one of the most iconic birds in Hawaii. These beautiful creatures are known for their long wingspan, lifespan and their graceful flying abilities. Sadly, these birds are now facing a new threat: climate change.
Both adults and immature birds are white overall with dark gray upperwings and whitish underwings. Adults average 31-31.9 inches in length and feature a long, hooked bill.
As the Earth’s climate continues to warm, the Laysan albatross’s habitat is slowly being destroyed. The bird’s nesting grounds are being eroded by rising sea levels and their food sources are becoming increasingly scarce. This is having a devastating effect on the Laysan albatross population, which has already declined by 30% in the last 20 years.
This large bird of Oahu is an important part of the island’s ecosystem and its decline is a sign of the serious damage that climate change is having on our planet.
17. Red-billed Leiothrix
Measuring about 5 inches, the red-billed leiothrixs are some of the most beautiful birds of Oahu. They were introduced to the islands in the early 1900s.
They belong to the Old World babbler family and are also known as the pekin robin, Japanese hill robin or Pekin nightingale.
They are mostly olive green, with an orange-yellow throat and breast, red bill, and red-yellow tipped wings. They also have a long, forked tail.
This bird is found in dense undergrowth in forest or scrub, often near running water. It builds a cup-shaped nest at least 10 feet above ground. They prefer fruits, especially papayas and guavas. Also, avian malaria has been detected in their blood.
Another red bird of Oahu is the Apapane. This Oahu birds are easily identifiable.
The Apapane has a long and curved beak that is perfect for eating nectar from flowers. It’s mostly red with a grayish belly and undertail. The Apapane is also known for its melodious singing voice. Male and female birds often sing together in duets.
The Apapane is an important part of the Oahu ecosystem. It helps to pollinate plants and keeps insects in check. This small bird is also a favorite food source for the endangered Hawaiian Hawk.
19. Oahu Alauahio
Another endangered bird in Oahu is the Oahu Alauahio. Also referred to as Oahu creeper, this bird species is a member of the Hawaiian honeycreeper family. They are endemic to the island of Oahu, and are found in forests at elevations of 3,000-5,000 feet.
Alauahio are small birds, measuring only 4-5 inches in length. They have greenish plumage on their upperparts, with a yellow belly and breast. Males and females look alike.
These birds feed on insects, which they catch by hawking them in flight or gleaning them from leaves and branches. Alauahio also eat nectar from native Hawaiian flowers, such as lobeliads and ohia lehua blossoms.
20. Oahu Amakihi
The Oahu Amakihi is a small, green Hawaiian honeycreeper that is found only on the island of Oahu.
The bird has a yellow breast and belly, and a green back. The Amakihi can be found in many different habitats.
The bird helps to pollinate plants, and also feeds on insects that could damage crops. The Amakihi is also one of the few birds that can drink nectar from flowers without harming them.
The Amakihi numbers have been declining in recent years. This decline is thought to be due to habitat loss and disease. Conservation efforts are underway to protect this small Hawaiian bird and its habitat.
21. Red-Footed Booby
Large and awkward, red-footed boobies are large seabirds of Oahu that are easily recognizable by their distinctive red feet. The red-footed booby is an excellent swimmer and can dive to depths of over 100 feet in search of food.
This large bird has two morphs. In Oahu you can spot an adult with a tan head and underside while the wings are dark brown. Also, the adult red-footed booby can be white with brown tipped wings and tail. Both morphs spot red feet and bluish faces and bills.
The bird feeds primarily on fish, but will also eat squid and crustaceans. The red-footed booby nests in trees or bushes, often near the water’s edge. The bird lays one each nesting season, which is incubated for about 45 days.
22. Common myna
In the mid 1800s, army worms had wreaked havoc in Hawaii. The common myna was introduced to help control the worm population. Over the years, this bird’s number has increased, making it one of the most common birds in Oahu and other islands.
The common myna is a medium-sized bird with black plumage and a yellow bill. Note the naked yellow skin around its eyes. It also spots strong yellow legs.
The bird has a strong, guttural voice and is often seen perching on rooftops or power lines. The common myna is a social bird and often forms flocks with other birds of prey.
Today in Oahu, this bird is considered to be a pest due to its aggressive behavior and its ability to out-compete native species for food and nesting sites.
Where to go birding in Oahu
Here are great spots you can go bird watching in Oahu:
- Diamond Head Summit Trail
- Aiea Loop Trail
- Ahupua‘a ‘O Kahana State Park
- Kaiwa ridge
- James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge
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