11 Birds of Maui: A Guide to Birds You May Encounter

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If you’re into bird-watching and you happen to be in Maui, consider yourself lucky. Maui hosts many different bird species and offers a variety of beautiful spots to observe them. Here is a list of 11 birds on Maui you might expect to admire during your trip and where to find them!

Red-crested Cardinal

Red-crested Cardinal on Maui

The Red-crested Cardinal is a medium-sized bird that has a white belly and a red head and crest, hence the name. The back, wings, and tail are grey. The Red-crested Cardinal is native of South America but was introduced to Hawaii several years ago. These birds live in subtropical or tropical shrubland and will not go at elevations higher than 500 meters above sea level.

The Red-crested Cardinal seems to be prolific in Maui, and have distinguishing features. Despite its name, the Red-crested Cardinal is not closely related to the cardinal family! They give the Northern Cardinal a run for its money though in terms of beauty.

Black-crowned Night Heron

The Black-Crowned Night Heron, also commonly known as Night Heron, is a heron which is common in many areas of the world. A black back and crown characterize these birds, and their body is light grey. Night Herons roost and nest in groups and mainly live in wetlands like marshes, lakes, and streams. The name comes from the fact that these birds tend to ambush prey during the night or in the early morning while it is still dark. Because they are rather common, it is not hard to spot these birds on Maui.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater

The Wedge-tailed Shearwater, also known as seabirds, are made for life on the ocean. They are one of the most common seabirds across the islands. You can easily see these birds on Maui from shore with binoculars March-November during their mating season. However, you can often encounter them on land, as well.

You can take a short hike along the Kapalua Coastal Trail to see their nesting habitat up close. I’d recommend it just because of the gorgeous views you’ll see up and down the coastline. However, the real fun is encountering the nesting spots of the Wedge-tailed Shearwater birds! Please be sure to stay on the trail and do not disrupt the birds that may be in their nesting spots. Seabirds have lost most of their nesting grounds on the islands, so the nests along the trail should be respected. Seabirds are also federally protected, so it’s essential to follow the laws regarding the species.

Java Sparrow

The Java Sparrow is native to Java and Bali and introduced in different areas of the world during ancient times. Java Sparrows are characterized by a grey body and a pink belly, as well as by a black head with white “cheeks.” These birds are popular pets. Today, they are common in many of the Hawaiian islands, including Maui. Java Sparrows are used to living in the vicinity of humans and tend to build their nests under artificial structures. They tend to live in flocks of more than 200 birds and can communicate using a wide variety of calls.

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Spotted Dove

The Spotted Dove is relatively similar to a common pigeon and is native to the Southeast Asia regions. This species of dove was introduced in several areas of the world, including Hawaii. Spotted Doves are characterized by a ground-like color of feathers with half of a black collar on the back, and spotted with white. Spotted Doves tend to move around in pairs and forage on the ground for food. We came across many Spotted Doves in parks and gardens in Maui.

Nene Goose (Hawaii State Bird)

11 Birds of Maui: A Guide to Birds You May Encounter

The Nene Goose is an endangered bird that is native to Hawaii. These birds have become the official bird of Hawaii. The Nene Goose is found exclusively in some of the Hawaiian Islands, including Maui. The name “nene” (pronounced nay-nay) comes from the typical fall that the bird makes during flight. Nenes are medium-sized geese characterized by a black head and face and buff cheeks. The neck has white diagonal stripes, and the feathers are grey. You can spot the Nene in Haleakala National Park in Maui, but it is not always easy. The park has a group of conservationists who do amazing work so that the population continues to thrive.

Zebra Dove

The Zebra Dove is a bird native to the South Eastern regions of Asia and introduced to Hawaii around one hundred years ago. These birds mainly live in scrub and lowland areas and are considered to be one of the most abundant species of birds in Hawaii. Zebra Doves are small in size, with a long tail. The feathers are greyish, with a pink underbelly and a blue-grey face. The Zebra Dove name comes from the zebra-pattern around the neck, which is very unique! These doves make pleasant soft cooing sounds.

Pacific Golden Plover

Pacific Golden Plover Bird

The Pacific Golden Plover was previously commonly hunted in Maui, but it is now protected. These birds are migratory and spend winters in Hawaii, where they are also known as “koleas.” Pacific Golden Plovers are medium-sized birds with long legs and a spotted golden coloration around the face, back, and on the wings. These birds tend to forage on lawns and mainly eat crustaceans and berries. I loved seeing these shorebirds in Maui. It’s quite funny to see them run on their long thin legs across the beach!

House Finch

The House Finch was introduced to Hawaii but is native to the west coast of North America. These finches mainly live in urban and suburban areas and tend not to migrate. They forage on the ground or in vegetation. The House Finch is characterized by brown color around the back with some grey shades on the wings. In many adults, heads and necks are red. The coloration depends on the season and the diet of the birds. Cool, right?! The type of berries and fruits they consume have an impact on the color of house finches.

Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal, also referred to as “redbird” or simply “cardinal,” can be easily found in Maui. The redbird is a songbird of medium size, characterized by a shiny red color and a black face mask around the eyes and beak. Only males are bright red, while females usually show a grey or brown coloration. Both sexes have brightly colored coral-red beaks. These birds typically live in woodlands and shrublands and are highly territorial. Males will fight to defend their territory and can communicate through different songs and calls.

The Northern Cardinal might be my favorite species on Maui. It may have something to do with me being from Ohio, where the cardinal is our state bird. However, there is truly something magical about seeing a Northern Cardinal in Maui’s lush landscape.

Myna (AKA the most annoying bird on Maui!)

The Myna bird was introduced to Hawaii in the 19th century from India. Today, the Myna bird is widespread and has flourished in many islands, including Maui. It is one of the birds of Maui that thrives in many habitats, and that builds nests in urban areas. These birds are usually brown with a blackhead. Their beak is bright yellow. Mynas can feed on almost everything, from insects to scraps and vegetables.

Myna birds are known to be quite nosy and are not easily scared by humans. Don’t be surprised to see a Myna bird steal food from restaurant plates in Maui. Yes, Mynas are often considered a nuisance and are not a favorite bird of mine! Also, like any nonnative bird species, there is a risk for competing with native species for food and nesting spots. Myna birds also carry diseases and mites that harm other native birds. Myna birds are also SO LOUD! They meet up in trees to perform a communal noise by vocalizing in harmony. It’s overwhelming at times, especially if your resort is near one of these Myna hangouts. Myna birds wake you up loudly, so I knew when dawn had arrived each day in Hawaii. Maybe someone should tell them an alarm would suffice for everyone on the island, hah!

We encountered many of the above birds during our time in Maui. The lush landscape of the island is home to many beautiful species, and we are grateful to know that Maui does important work to make sure the ecosystem thrives. There is truly no better place to admire birds than paradise!

Have you encountered any of these birds while in Maui? Which is your favorite to admire?

SOURCES: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, iNaturalist, Audubon

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