Elepaio bird       Oahu ‘elepaio. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Within the city limits of urban Honolulu, the trees are teeming with birds. You’ll see common and non-native birds like the Spotted DoveZebra DoveCommon MynahWhite TernRed-vented BulbulRed-crested CardinalRed-billed LeiothrixJapanese White-eyeCommon Waxbill and the White-rumped Shama known for its singingThe best urban birdwatching sites in Honolulu are at Kapi‛olani Park in Waikiki, the Nā La‛au Trail on Diamond Head, and Sand Island - an area between downtown Honolulu and the airport. However, to have a chance at seeing native birds on O‛ahu, it’s best to hike on designated trails outside of city limits or visit a bird sanctuary where endangered species find refuge and nest. Here are some of my favorite birdwatching sites outside the city:

Aiea Loop Trail – Native birds can be spotted here, especially the endemic Oahu ‘elepaio (Monarch Flycatcher) which is thriving once again in this forest. This 4.8 mile trail through lush groves of Norfolk pine, lemon eucalyptus, native koa and ‛ōhi‛a trees is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Honolulu, and is an easy to moderate hike. Since it’s a loop, every view is fresh and different. Views of Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, and the Ko‛olau Mountains. Parking and restrooms are at the trailhead at Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area.

Hawaiian Stilt ‘Ae‛o – Hawaiian Stilt. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service


Moorhen Bird ‘Alae ‘Ula – Hawaiian Moorhen. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


Kaelepulu Wetland also known as Enchanted Lake Bird Sanctuary – This wetland sanctuary is on private property in Kailua about a half hour from downtown Honolulu. Created in 1995, its mission is to safeguard habitat for native Hawaiian waterbirds and birds that migrate like the Golden Plover. There is no charge to view the wetlands from the 300-foot-long public viewing area on Kiukee Place where you can park your car. Public access into the wetland is prohibited. Viewers can usually see ‘Aeo (Hawaiian Stilt), ‘Alae ‘Ula (Hawaiian Gallinule or Moorhen), ‘Alae Keokeo (Hawaiian Coot) and ‘Aukuu (Black-Crowned Night-Heron) in one visit.

Apapane Bird ‘Apapane, native Hawaiian Honeycreeper once prized by ancient Hawaiians for their red feathers used in capes, helmets and feather leis worn by royalty. Not considered endangered but are uncommon on O‛ahu. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.


Amakihi Bird ‘Amakihi, native Hawaiian Honeycreeper now repopulating in local forests. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Trails in the Mount Tantalus area – Tantalus is a small residential community nestled in the Ko‛olau mountains and within a conservation district just outside of Honolulu. An abundance of hiking trails take you through forested areas where you just might see native birds like the ‘apapane or the ‘amakihi, both species of Hawaiian Honeycreeper.

To choose the best trails for your hiking ability, visit Nā Ala Hele Trail and Access website.