The island of Molokai might not have any stoplights, but it does have plenty of birds. From the mist-shrouded valleys of Kamakou Preserve to the shorelines of Kakahaia, Molokai houses dozens of species of migrant and resident birdlife—including some rare, endangered species that aren’t found elsewhere on Earth.
When it comes to bird watching on Molokai, the best place to start is by reaching out and contacting Nene O Molokai, a non-profit that was founded on protecting and raising Hawaii’s state bird, the Nene goose. Fully run by volunteers, the group has expanded their focus to also include Hawaiian waterfowl, from the Hawaiian stilt (Ae‘o), to the Hawaiian Duck (Koloa Maoli), and endangered Hawaiian Coot (‘Alae Ke‘oke‘o).Tours are available by prior arrangement, and there’s always the need for volunteers to help improve and protect their habitat.
For the chance to see a Nene in the wild, you might spot one while making the drive across Pu‘u O Hoku Ranch, where a small population has started to thrive on the northeastern end of the island. When making the drive to Halawa Valley, keep an eye out for yellow street signs emblazoned with pictures of Nene geese, and scan the pastures on both side of the road for the rare and lovable goose.
For the chance at spotting forest birds, get your hands on a 4WD vehicle and head to the Kamakou Preserve, where i‘iwi, ‘apapane, and ‘amakihi inhabit the forest and treetops. Unfortunately, because Molokai is low in elevation, the forest is still in the realm of diseases like avian malaria, which has had a devastating effect on many of Molokai’s forest birds. Nevertheless, a hardy few still cling to existence in remote sections of the forest, though there hasn’t been a sighting of the Molokai Thrush (‘Oloma‘o) since 1998. To visit the Molokai Forest Reserve as part of a guided tour, contact The Nature Conservancy on Molokai and ask about monthly trips.
To reach the Nene O Molokai call (808)553-5992 or visit www.nene.net. For the Nature Conservancy, call (808) 553-5236.