Eight Birds Introduced to Hawaii that Everyone Should Know

Eight Birds Introduced to Hawaii that Everyone Should Know

Hawaii may be known for its beautiful native species of birds, but sadly most of them are highly endangered and/or found only in upland areas, far from where most visitors go. However, it’s easy to spot the colorful bevy of introduced birds that hang out near beaches, hotels and lowland areas — especially since some of them make plenty of noise, too. No need to wing it when it comes to identifying them; simply take this nonnative bird checklist with you, or study it in your nest before you go.

Featured photo: Kvnga via Unsplash.

A white egret with a long orange beak stands serenely on green foliage. The background features a blurred mix of green leaves and trees, highlighting the bird's crisp, white feathers against the lush surroundings—truly one of the eight birds introduced to Hawaii everyone should know.
Photo: James Brennan

Cattle Egret

This small white heron with a curved neck and long legs really pops out in the green parks and fields where it hangs out looking for insects — especially any of the flies attracted to cattle, as its name implies. Ranchers brought some to the islands from Florida in 1959 to help control those flies, but these birds have long since flew the coop, so to speak. Watch one hunt and peck a worm here.

A small bird with a grey back and head, white belly, and pink bill and legs is standing on a sandy surface scattered with small pebbles and seeds. This charming creature is one of the eight birds introduced to Hawaii that everyone should know. The background is blurred, suggesting a shallow depth of field.
Photo: Ludovic Hirlimann

Java Sparrow

It’s a good thing rice is no longer grown commercially in Hawaii, because these pretty birds originally from Indonesia can devastate crops. Introduced sometime in the 1960s, these plump species of finch (despite the name) boast a bright, thick red beak, a black cap and tail, gray wings, pink belly and a red ring around their eyes. Listen to its cheep-cheep-cheep call here.

A common myna bird, one of the eight birds introduced in Hawaii that everyone should know, stands on green grass with vibrant purple flowers and dense green foliage in the background. The bird has dark brown plumage, a black head, yellow eye patches, and a distinct yellow beak. The scene is bright and natural.
Photo: Forest and Kim Starr

Mynah

Imported from South Asia in 1865 to battle army worms, these brash birds (also known as myna) have become their own territorial army, billeting just about anywhere, raiding other birds’ nests, scavenging for food and fighting each other. Their black head and russet-brown coat with black and white underwings are offset by flashy yellow eye patches, beak and legs. The sound of them gathering en masse at sundown is also striking; click here to listen to a solo “call”  and a group “song.”

A red-crested cardinal with bright red head plumage, gray wings, and white underbelly is perched on a branch. The bird is facing slightly to the left, set against a backdrop of blurred green foliage. It's one of the eight birds introduced to Hawaii everyone should know.
Photo: Alan Schmierer

Red-crested Cardinal

Little Red Riding Hood has a spirit animal in this cutie from South America, a denizen of Hawaii since the early 1930s. Also known as the Brazilian cardinal, it has a crimson head and pompadour that contrast brightly with its gray wings and beak and its white ruff and belly. Click here for samples of its cheery call.

A small yellow bird with an orange head stands on grass, one of the eight birds introduced to Hawaii that everyone should know. The bird's dark eyes are focused on the ground, and its beak is closed. Surrounding it is a lush green background, suggesting a natural outdoor setting.
Photo: Melissa McMasters

Saffron Finch

These South American birds with bright yellow feathers arrived in the ’60s like hippies in tie-dye, and like their bohemian counterparts, typically flock together, either in pairs or larger groups. Male saffron finches look like they’re blushing, with soft orange hue around their faces, while both genders have some olive-green feathers on their back. Their whistling song is also sweet.

A black and orange bird with a long tail is perched on a branch amidst lush green leaves. The bird's body is orange on the underside and black on top, blending with the green foliage surrounding it. Eight Birds Introduced Hawaii Everyone Should Know highlights such striking species in captivating environments.
Photo: Herb Neufeld

White-rumped shama

It’s fun just to say the name of this 1930s import from Southeast Asia, famed for its melodious song. Its long black tail feathers with a white underside and its oriole-like orange underbelly are also distinctive, but its friendly, inquisitive behavior may be even more captivating; witness this video of two eating out of the hand of a guide on the Hawaii Organic Noni farm tour on Kauai.

A brown chicken stands on a colorful picnic table with red, green, and teal planks. In the background, there are wooden benches, a yellow truck, and a glimpse of the ocean, green grass, and trees—a scene reminiscent of the "Eight Birds Introduced Hawaii Everyone Should Know." A red cloth is partially visible on one side of the table.

Wild Chickens (Moa)

Part red junglefowl, part domesticated chicken, and all over Kauai — plus increasingly on Maui, Oahu and Hawaii Island — these roadside attractions sport red, black and emerald green plumage, sometimes dappled with gold and brown. You think California cows are happy? Hawaii roosters love to crow about their situation at all hours, which is why some Garden Island lodgings supply earplugs.

A zebra dove, one of the eight birds introduced to Hawaii everyone should know, is seen foraging on the ground amidst dry leaves and small plants. It has a light blue face with a slightly curved beak, and its plumage features distinctive black and white barring on the neck and wings. The background is softly blurred with greenery.
Photo: Melissa McMasters

Zebra Dove

These gray doves with a pale blue stripe around their eyes and beak and zebra-like ruffled feathers congregate anywhere there’s food, pecking at crumbs under your table or seeds and bugs on the ground. So basically, they’re everywhere, as is the sound of their cooing.

Want more details about Hawaii’s birds and where to find them? Check out the state-sponsored Hawaii Birding Trails website and the annual Hawaii Island Festival of Birds.

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