Hemignathus kauaiensis

 

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This Kauai `Amakihi, shown foraging in native Hawaiian `Ohia Lehua, was photographed along Kauai's Pihea trail above beautiful Kalalau Valley. The `Amakihi is a relatively common native Hawaiian honeycreeper. At a size of about four and one half inches, `Amakihi are smaller than the `Apapane, but every bit as energetic while on the move atop the rainforest canopy. Their plumage is yellow-green in coloration with a small black "mask" between their eyes and downward-curved bill. Males and females are similar in appearance. There are three separate species of Amakihi : one on Kauai, another on Oahu and the third species, found on Hawaii (the Big island) Maui and Molokai. `Amakihi are no longer found in their former habitat on the Island of Lana`i. Attracted to a variety of nectar bearing plants, `Amakihi supplement their diets with insects. Like other Hawaiian honeycreepers, they are usually found above and altitude of 4,000 feet in the `Ohia and Koa rainforests, where they are out of the range of disease carrying mosquitoes. A curious exception to this rule is the Oahu species of `Amakihi , which can sometimes be observed at very low altitude near the Lyon Arboretum In Manoa Valley and Makiki Trailhead.

Kalalau Valley

The Pihea Trail can be a fantastic place to see native Hawaiian birds. `Apapane, Elepaio and `Amakihi can be regularly seen feeding on the nectar from the red blossoms of the Ohia Lehua trees. Another yellow-green native Hawaiian bird that can be ocasionally found here is the `Anianiau (which is smaller than the `Amakihi and lacks the black mask). Akeke`e and I`iwi are also seen ocassionally along the Pihea. This hike can be fairly easy when conditions are dry and is well worth the effort. Although most of the trail is closed in by vegetation on both sides, there are several spots along the way that are open on the valley side and offer stunning views down into Kalalau Valley. Even if the bird viewing is poor, the view of Kalalau, one of the most beautiful valleys on Earth, will amaze you. Sharp peaks, dropping four thousand feet into the Pacific, seem to change shape as you advance along the trail and begin to view the mountain's ridges from a profile perspective. Along the other side of the trail are views of the Alakai swamp. The Pihea Trail eventually leads downward into the wet Alakai swamp trail and boardwalk. The Alakai is also a good place to look for native hawaiian birds. Pueo and Barn Owls can be seen hunting here in the evening, perched atop old `Ohia trees that tower above fern covered slopes. It's best to avoid the Pihea trail during rainy conditions since parts of the trail can flood and and it's extremely difficult to walk on a wet red-dirt trail (even with good boots).

NATIVE HAWAIIAN BIRDS >