Three Island Tour (Oahu, Kauai, “Big Island”)

The American Birding Association (ABA) finally voted to include our 50th state in its geographic territory in December, 2016. Hence, there has been a recent surge of birders booking trips with the hopes of adding Hawaii’s unique species to their life-lists. Hawaii is viewed as a mini-Galapagos Islands as its isolation allowed a degree of “adaptive radiation” (think Darwin’s finches and the theory of evolution) among the birds, most notably the Honeycreeper family.

Kauai (“Jurassic Park” filmed here in 1993)

A knee-replacement last summer had kept me on the bird-chasing sidelines the past six months. But a favorable March work schedule, coupled with the blessing of the home-front/medical team, set the table for what was a remarkable three island tour in Hawaii. The key to the entire trip was my guide….Mandy Talpas. She can be located on the internet as “Hawaii Birding Babe”.
Her boyfriend coined the accurate description of this young, East Stroudsburg/Villanova-educated Pennsylvania-reared birding machine. She possesses a combination of the Professor’s brains and Ginger’s looks (remember the ill-fated three-hour tour popularized on television?). She is tenacious, talented, funny and most importantly, she managed to find me 74 species and 46 LIFERS for the trip. Not once did I beat her to a bird call or a sighting! I’m afraid I was more of a Gilligan-like character following her through rain-forests and 6,000 foot climbs, anxiously waiting for her to locate the next possible rarity.

Jon Knight, GCW, Mandy Talpas
(Hakalau Forest NWR, “Big Island”)

Hawaii is an archipelago with super-rare birds that can only be seen there (i.e. “endemic”). And sadly, due to….yes…Climate-Change…several species will likely become extinct in my lifetime. Why? Because malaria-carrying mosquitoes are moving up the hillsides as temperatures rise and the birds, most of whom never developed an immunity to these diseases, are literally flying out of room seeking lower temperatures at higher altitudes. The lucky ones that seem to have some resistance to avian pox are threatened by introduced ground predation in the form of feral cats, pigs and mongooses. Mandy found 16/17 of the endemic bird species (we missed the Hawaiian Hawk) and ten (10!) of those 16 are listed as endangered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Nene aka Hawaiian Goose

Bristle-thighed Curlew

Pueo aka Hawaiian Owl (“Big Island”)

Red-tailed Tropicbird
(Kilauea NWR, Kauai)

As depressing as the future is for many of Hawaii’s forest birds, other types of introduced birds are thriving.

Red-crested Cardinal
(Introduced from Brazil in the 1930’s)

So, my ABA life-list has jumped to 771 and 800 seems like a realistic goal after all. I think I’ll go for it!

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Three Island Tour (Oahu, Kauai, “Big Island”)

  1. Glass, Dennis says:

    Great fun and accomplishment! See u soon


  2. Dan Miller says:

    Nice work George! Seemed like yesterday you hit 700.

  3. D Weisbord says:

    Wonderful birds, George. Congratulations. Glad you had great trip. Welcome home. D

  4. Arlin Green says:

    Aloha! Always fun to experience the Thrill of the Chase vicariously through you, George. 800 here we come!!!

  5. Peter Ziesing says:

    Another great blog George – love the pics and the commentary – Zies

  6. Thomas, Brinton (RBC Wealth Mgmt) says:

    800 is a wonderful number!! Good luck…………….. Brinton

  7. Jeff Watkinson says:

    nice work George!

  8. Jeff Day says:

    Maikaʻi loa, George! 800, hmmmm….just like your scores on the old SATs 🙂

  9. Jay Bennett says:

    Impressive my boy, particularly for Gilligan — just glad you didn’t wear his even dorkier sailor’s cap!

  10. Joe Knowles says:

    Congrats, George — quite a productive trip! You sound more like the Professor than Gilligan…..!

  11. Andrew Mozino says:


    Sent from my iPhone


  12. Mahalo! So cool! That’s a LOT OF BIRDS in a short period of time.
    Keep rolling!

  13. Haden Gerrish says:

    Quest for 800! We are going to need an updated booklet. Cheers, Haden

  14. Julie Foster says:

    Are there 29 species you haven’t found? What’s the total in existence in the US?

    • Safe to say 700 species breed in the “ABA Area”…which is basically USA and Canada (not Mexico). The books will list over 900 species that may have been identified in the territory at least once. Migrants, vagrants, accidentals, etc…. Take-away the one hit wonders and you have around 825. There are some living birders with over 800 species seen in the ABA area…but not too many. Worldwide there are approx. 10,000 species. My World list is only 1500 or so. The most recent World record was around 8800 seen by a lady diagnosed with terminal illness and unlimited budget. So she decided to bird everywhere…..and didn’t die for another 25 years or so. There is a book on her.

    • Google Phoebe Snetsinger. And I just learned a British guy (81) saw his 9,000th bird in 2012. That’s incredible!

  15. Jeffrey Dingle says:

    Any bets on 772, 773 & 774? What are some not on your list that are readily doable? Are Mexico and Central America included?

    41 Lifers with one person… Wondering if total number of Lifers added on two spring vacations is more than 41?… I know we saw at least 70 species, maybe 80, those two vacations. And that’s when I assume you started your life list. Even though you had 10 or 15 already but never had a list before…

    House Sparrow, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Starling, Rock Dove, Crow, Mallard, ‘Seagull’…

    That’s about all I could name that were on my life list before my first trip to the Everglades. For sure I saw some other species but none that I identified or even made note of.

    – FFEJ

    Sent from myPhone


  16. GEORGE WOOD says:

    Jeff/FFEJ: You and I saw at least 100 new birds over the two separate vacations…guaranteed! I kept our paper checklists from 1968 until 1995 when I put the data into a computer…now all housed with Cornell and EBIRD. Mexico and Central America are NOT part of the “ABA” Area…for whatever reason. There are NO new readily doable birds for me to see in USA or Canada. Believe me, I study this regularly. There is ONE Blue Bunting in Texas, ONE Smith’s Longspur seen in Iowa yesterday, ONE Swainson’s Warbler being seen in Arkansas right now. Those are the “easy” ones. Picking up 29 new ones (to reach 800) is going to take time and money. Maybe by age 65:)

    See you next week in Boston! George

  17. chasscrew says:


    This is great! Hoping that we can all get together soon – maybe after school is out for you?

    Cheers, Anne

    Anne Standish


  18. Mike Oleary says:

    Hey Woody

    First off congratulations on your Eagles. That was awesome! Hopefully our Lions are next. Well I just returned from Arizona and cleaned up on some birds. The highlight was the streak backed oriole. I missed the Trogon again but save it for another trip. My sister lives near Tucson so that helps. I’m sitting at 481 now so 500 is in Range. I hope all is well and keep in touch with your birding adventures. Take care Mike

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Mike, great to read you. Fun time to be a Philly sports fan. Congratulations on that Oriole! I’m tempted to hit AZ and pick up the Slate-throated Redstart and Flame-colored Tanager…..but my job is in the way:)

      Be well and say hi to Fordie.

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