Hummingbirds are known for their diminutive size and remarkable ability to hover in midair as their wings beat up to 80 times per second. Their metallic, iridescent plumage glimmers in the sun as they dart from flower to flower. But do these tiny speedsters live in the lush, tropical paradise of Hawaii?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, Hawaii does have hummingbirds, but only two species compared to over 300 found throughout the Americas.
A Brief History of Hummingbirds in Hawaii
Introduction of Hummingbirds to Hawaii
Contrary to popular belief, Hawaii does not have any native species of hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are not naturally found in Hawaii, as the islands lack the necessary resources and suitable climate for these small, nectar-loving birds. However, hummingbirds were introduced to Hawaii in the early 20th century as a result of human intervention.
The first recorded introduction of hummingbirds to Hawaii occurred in 1939, when a small number of individuals were brought over from Mexico. These birds were released on the island of Oahu in an attempt to establish a population of hummingbirds in the archipelago. Unfortunately, this initial introduction did not result in a successful establishment of hummingbirds in Hawaii.
It wasn’t until 1959 that a second attempt was made to introduce hummingbirds to Hawaii. This time, a larger number of birds were brought over from California and released on the island of Maui. This introduced population of hummingbirds managed to survive and reproduce, leading to the establishment of feral hummingbird populations in Hawaii.
Establishment of Feral Hummingbird Populations
Since their introduction, feral hummingbirds have successfully adapted to the Hawaiian environment, finding sources of nectar in the various flowering plants found on the islands. They have also adapted their diet to include small insects and spiders, which provide a rich source of protein.
The most common species of hummingbird found in Hawaii is the Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna), which is native to the western parts of North America. The Anna’s Hummingbird is known for its vibrant colors and iridescent feathers, making it a popular sight among birdwatchers and tourists visiting Hawaii.
It’s important to note that while feral hummingbirds have established populations in Hawaii, they are not considered native or endemic to the islands. They are an introduced species, and their presence in Hawaii is a result of human intervention. Nevertheless, their presence adds to the diversity of bird species found in the archipelago and provides a unique opportunity for bird enthusiasts to observe these fascinating creatures in a tropical setting.
For more information on hummingbirds in Hawaii, you can visit the Hawaii Audubon Society website.
The Two Hummingbird Species Found in Hawaii
When you think of hummingbirds, Hawaii might not be the first place that comes to mind. However, this beautiful archipelago is home to two unique species of hummingbirds that have adapted to the island’s diverse ecosystems. Let’s take a closer look at these fascinating birds:
The Green Violet-ear
The Green Violet-ear (Colibri thalassinus) is one of the hummingbird species that can be found in Hawaii. Native to Central and South America, this stunning bird has made its way to the Hawaiian Islands. Its name comes from the vibrant green coloration on its head and back, resembling the color of a violet flower. The Green Violet-ear is known for its agility in flight, hovering in mid-air while feeding on nectar from flowers.
While the Green Violet-ear is not endemic to Hawaii, it can be spotted on the islands during certain times of the year. These migratory birds are known to visit the islands during their breeding season, which occurs from April to October. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of these vibrant birds as they make their way through Hawaii.
The Red-billed Leiothrix
Another hummingbird species found in Hawaii is the Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea), also known as the Pekin Robin. Despite its name, the Red-billed Leiothrix is not a true hummingbird but shares similar characteristics. This small bird is native to the Himalayas and was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1900s.
The Red-billed Leiothrix is known for its colorful plumage, with a vibrant mix of red, orange, and yellow feathers. It has a distinctive red bill and a melodious song, which adds to its charm. These birds are often found in dense forested areas, where they feed on insects, nectar, and fruits.
While the Green Violet-ear and the Red-billed Leiothrix are not the only hummingbird-like species in Hawaii, they are the most well-known and frequently spotted by bird enthusiasts. Their presence adds to the diversity of Hawaii’s avian population and offers a unique sight for both locals and visitors alike.
For more information on hummingbirds in Hawaii and birdwatching opportunities, you can visit the Hawaii Audubon Society website. Happy birdwatching!
Differences From Mainland Hummingbirds
Lack of Variety
While Hawaii is known for its diverse and unique wildlife, the same cannot be said for its hummingbird population. Unlike the mainland, where there are over 300 different species of hummingbirds, Hawaii is home to only one species – the Apapane (Himatione sanguinea). This small, colorful bird is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and can be found in various habitats, from lowland forests to high-elevation shrublands.
Another notable difference between Hawaiian hummingbirds and their mainland counterparts is their range. Mainland hummingbirds are known to have vast territories, spanning thousands of miles. However, due to the limited size of the Hawaiian Islands, the range of the Apapane is much smaller. These birds are typically found on specific islands or within certain regions of an island, making their distribution more localized.
Hawaiian hummingbirds have also developed unique behaviors and adaptations to suit their island environment. For example, the Apapane has a specialized curved bill that allows it to access nectar from flowers with tubular shapes. This adaptation is thought to be a response to the absence of certain flower species that mainland hummingbirds rely on for food.
Additionally, the Apapane has been observed engaging in peculiar breeding behaviors. Unlike mainland hummingbirds, which typically build elaborate nests, the female Apapane constructs a simple, cup-shaped nest made of plant fibers and spider webs. This adaptation may be due to the limited availability of nesting materials on the islands.
Best Places to See Hummingbirds in Hawaii
When you think of Hawaii, you may not immediately think of hummingbirds. However, these tiny and colorful birds can indeed be found in the beautiful islands of Hawaii. If you’re a hummingbird enthusiast or simply interested in observing these fascinating creatures, here are some of the best places in Hawaii to see them in action.
Lava Tree State Park on the Big Island
Lava Tree State Park, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is a unique destination where you can witness the beauty of hummingbirds in their natural habitat. As you explore the park’s lava tree molds and lush vegetation, keep an eye out for the vibrant feathers and quick movements of these delightful birds. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera to capture their stunning aerial displays!
Waikamoi Preserve on Maui
For a truly immersive hummingbird experience, head to the Waikamoi Preserve on the island of Maui. This protected area is home to a diverse range of native Hawaiian plants, which attract a variety of bird species, including hummingbirds. Take a leisurely hike through the preserve’s trails, and you may catch a glimpse of these feathered wonders feeding on nectar or performing their mesmerizing mid-air acrobatics.
Oahu’s Backyard Feeders
If you prefer a more relaxed and convenient way to observe hummingbirds, Oahu’s backyard feeders are a must-visit. Many residents of Oahu have set up hummingbird feeders in their own gardens, attracting these delightful birds on a regular basis. By visiting these locations, you can enjoy the sight of hummingbirds up close while also supporting the local community. It’s a win-win situation!
For more information on the hummingbird species found in Hawaii and their preferred habitats, check out the Hawaii Audubon Society website. They provide valuable insights and resources for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
So, while Hawaii may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of hummingbirds, it certainly offers some incredible opportunities to see these tiny avian wonders in action. Whether you choose to explore Lava Tree State Park, hike through Waikamoi Preserve, or visit Oahu’s backyard feeders, you’re sure to have a memorable hummingbird encounter on your Hawaiian adventure. Don’t forget your camera!
Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Yard
Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures that can bring joy and beauty to any yard. While Hawaii is not known for having native hummingbird species, it is possible to attract these tiny birds to your yard by creating a hospitable environment for them. Here are some tips on how to attract hummingbirds to your yard in Hawaii.
Provide Nectar Sources
One of the main reasons why hummingbirds visit yards is to feed on nectar. Planting flowers that produce nectar-rich blooms is a great way to attract these birds. Some popular nectar-producing flowers that can thrive in Hawaii’s climate include hibiscus, passionflower, and heliconia. Make sure to choose a variety of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the year to provide a continuous nectar source.
Another effective way to attract hummingbirds to your yard is by installing feeders. These feeders can be filled with a homemade nectar solution made of four parts water and one part white granulated sugar. It’s important to avoid using honey or artificial sweeteners, as they can be harmful to hummingbirds. Hang the feeders in a visible and easily accessible location, and clean them regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria or mold.
Create Sheltered Areas
Hummingbirds not only need a food source but also require sheltered areas to rest and feel safe. Planting trees and shrubs that provide cover and perches can attract hummingbirds to your yard. Consider planting native Hawaiian plants like ʻōhiʻa lehua or koa, which can provide both food and shelter for these birds. Additionally, adding a small water feature, such as a birdbath or a shallow dish with fresh water, can also attract hummingbirds as they need water for bathing and drinking.
By following these tips, you can create an inviting environment for hummingbirds in your yard in Hawaii. Remember to be patient, as it may take some time for the birds to discover and frequent your yard. Enjoy the beauty and excitement that hummingbirds can bring to your outdoor space!
So while Hawaii may not boast the stunning diversity of hummingbirds found throughout the Americas, it does host two remarkable species that have adapted to make the islands their home. Visiting one of the key sites or putting out feeders can give you a chance to observe these energetic little birds for yourself.
With their glittering plumage and entertaining antics, Hawaii’s hummingbirds prove that big surprises can come in small packages. Learning more about their unique history in the islands reveals yet another fascinating dimension of Hawaii’s precious natural heritage.