Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bulletin 182 - Kauai #2 - endemics and others

The endemic forest birds of Kauai are among the most endangered of any on the Hawaiian Islands. 3 or 4 species have gone extinct since 1990. Most of the rest are expected to disappear by 2020, so if one wants to see them, one needs to plan in the next few years.

Lisa, Seth and I hired local guide Jim Denny to take us to find the endemic forest birds.

The Iiwi is almost never seen in Kauai any more. The larger of the 2 native thrushes (Kamao) of Kauai went extinct after the hurricanes in the 90s hit Kauai. The smaller one (Puaiohi) may still be present in small numbers in the wild, but it is being raised in captivity. We didn't see any of these on the trip.

The Kauai Amakihi (Hemignathus kauaiensis) is the largest of the 3 species of Amakihi in Hawaii. It is yellow-green with curved bill and black mask. We just saw a couple of them.

Kauai Amakihi
The smallest (4") of all the Hawaiian honeycreepers is the Anianiau (Hemignathus parvus). I have a problem with pronouncing the names of the birds as written. It is good to go with a guide who knows how to pronounce them. This is pronounced ani-ani-ow. The male is bright yellow and the female is duller. We saw 2 or 3 of them, but managed only a couple of photos.

Another very rare honeycreeper the Akekee put in a brief appearance while I was photographing the Anianiau above. The guide saw it, but none of the rest of us saw the bird as we were focused on the Anianiau.

The most common of the endemics was the Kauai Elepaio (Chasiempis sclateri). We saw a number of these and had good photo opportunities as they were not concerned with our presence. The aduts are mostly gray with a brown wash on the throat, and are the plainest of the 3 species. It belongs to the Monarch Flycatcher family. The cocked up tail is the most distinguishing feature.

Kauai Elepaio - adult

The juvenile however, is a very bright red brown.

Kauai Elepaio - juvenile
And another of a bird right over my head.

Kauai Elepaio - juvenile

After struggling for more than 15 years to see a Nene (Branta sandvicensis) on Hawaii or Maui, they are all over the place on Kauai. The reason for this is there are no mongoose on the island to raid the nests. As on the other islands, they are almost all banded.

There are a number of introduced birds on Kauai as on the other islands. The new ones we saw include the Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata). The adults have a red head and crest, dark gray back and white underparts. They are native to South America.

Red-crested Cardinal - adult
The juveniles have an orange-brown head and crest.

Red-crested Cardinal - juvenile

The other was the White-rumped Shama (Copsychus malabaricus). This large (10") songbird is native to Malaysia and was introduced to Kauai in 1931. The male is black above, orange below and has a long tail.

White-rumped Shama - male
The female is gray above rather than black.

White-rumped Shama - female
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bulletin 181 - Kauai seabirds

We had a family vacation in Kauai 2 weeks ago, and I did manage to get some birding in. LOL

A special place is Kilauea Point NWR on the north coast of Kauai. There is a lighthouse on a cliff several hundred feet above the ocean and the seabirds are soaring at eye level. According to the Hawaii bird guide, it is the most visited NWR in the USA. It is listed at the place to find seabirds in Hawaii. They have nice signs around to help non-birders identify the different species.

Kilauea Point NWR

The first bird is the Great Frigatebird (Frigata minor). This long-winged bird has a deeply forked tail. The male is all black with a red throat pouch that he inflates during courtship.

Great Frigatebird - male

The female has a white breast.

Great Frigatebird - female
And the juvenile has a white head, neck and breast. The tail is shorter.  This one is scratching his head 'on the wing'.

Great Frigatebird - juvenile
Tropicbirds are a family of 3 species of gull like seabirds in the tropical oceans of the world. I had never seen a tropicbird previously, so the 2 species seen here were  both lifers. The more common one is the Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaeton rubricauda).  The adults are white with a bright red bill, and red tail streamers.

Red-tailed Tropicbird - adult
The young have black bills and no tail streamers. This is a sub-adult as the bill is mostly red, but it has none of the tail streamers.

Red-tailed Tropicbird - subadult

The White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaeton lepturus) is smaller, has a yellowish bill and long white tail streamers. From above, it has a black 'M' on the wings.

White-tailed Tropic Bird
The Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) is a large (28") seabird with long pointed beak, and pointed tail. The adult is white with brown wing edges. It has a bluish bill and red feet.

Red-footed Booby - adult
The juveniles are brown with orange legs. There is a huge breeding colony of these boobies at the lighthouse, and juvies are seen waiting in the trees to be fed.

Red-footed Booby - juvenile
The Brown Booby (Sula  leucogaster) is also 28" in length. This one was seen along the Naapali coast during a boat trip to see the spectacular cliffs. The adult has a brown head and neck.

Brown Booby - adult

The last of the seabirds I was able to photograph, was the Wedge-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus pacificus). These birds nest in burrows and lay a single egg. The gray downy young can sometimes be seen if they come out of the burrow. The adults usually feed offshore during the day, and return to feed the babies at dusk. This particular adult was sitting on the nest in a planter box outside the visitor center main door! What an easy lifer!

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - adult
Several gray downy chicks were seen, waiting at the mouth of the burrow for their parents return.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - chick
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2013 David McDonald

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