Identifying the Fish of Hawaii: Spotted Pufferfish

27 05 2016


Birds of Hawaii: ‘Akekeke

20 04 2016

‘Akekeke is an abundant winter visitor in Hawaii arriving in August and heading to its arctic breading grounds in April and May. A few have been known to oversummer in Hawaii.

They are 9″ with short black bills and legs that are a reddish orange. In flight you can see the bold black pattern on the wings and back.

Their call is a clear rattle or soft whistle.

‘Akekeke frequent the shoreline and mudflats in small flocks and with other shorebirds. Their flight is rapid and an entire clock may rise and turn in unison.

Hawaiian Reef Etiquette

2 04 2016

Milletseed Butterflyfish

Hawaiian Reef Etiquette This short public service announcement is colorful and educational teaching viewers the proper behavior when watching the sea life in Hawaii. Highly recommended.

Here’s a cool website that lists various Hawaiian fish and their Hawaiian names and more common names here.

Hawaiian Birds: `Io

17 03 2016

Hawaiian Birds

Because the islands are more than 2000 miles from North America or Asia there are some amazing birds in Hawaii. It has been said that the absence of predators and minimal competition allowed them to evolve in peace. It has been estimated that there were at one time are least seventy kinds of birds that were unique to Hawaii. Of these some forty percent are already lost to extinction and some thirty percent more that are considered endangered.

Hawaiian Birds: `Io

`Io (Buteo soliarius) is sometimes referred to as the Hawaiian Hawk.

In the Kona region of the Big Island of Hawai‘i, the bulk of Mauna Loa blocks the prevailing trade winds leaving the air quite calm. The daily cycle of gentle convectional breezes moves up and down the gentle slopes, bringing the warm, humid climate. The Hawaiian saying “kaha ka ‘io i ka malie” translates as “the hawk stands out in the calm skies,” and is used to express admiration for a person who stands out in a crowd because of his or her appearance or charisma.

This graceful bird of prey measures 16 to 18 inches in length, the female being larger. Two color phases exist: a dark phase (dark brown head, breast, and underwings), and a light color phase (dark head, light breast and light underwings). Feet and legs are yellowish in adults and greenish in juveniles.

February through August is their breeding season, with pairs having their own schedule that may be dependent on locality. Nests are constructed of twigs and lined with leafy material. Eggs are similar in size and shaped to a chicken egg, light blue in color and either speckled or streaked with brown or reddish brown. The clutch size is normally one egg, and should the egg be lost within a few days of laying, a second clutch is laid within three weeks. Pair bonding appears to be permanent, and a pair uses the same nesting site in succeeding years.

also called the Hawaiian Hawk

The `Io usually hunts from a stationary position, but can also dive on prey from the air. It feeds on rodents, insects, small birds, and some game birds. They are opportunistic predators and are versatile in their feeding habits. They have a shrill and high-pitched call much like their Hawaiian name: “eeeh-oh.” They are known to be very noisy during the breading season. `Io are strong fliers.

In the forests of Kapu‘a in South Kona, ‘io still build their nests in strong ‘öhi‘a trees, calling out their persistence for all to hear. They have a shrill high-pitched call like their Hawaiian name: “eeeh-oh.” They are noisy during the breeding season. ‘Io are very strong fliers.

Hawaiian Birds: Palermi

20 02 2016

The Puaiohi or the Small Kauai Thrush is a rare thrush that is endemic to Kauai. Puaiohi are small, drab birds that have long, slender blackish yellow bills. They have pink feet, legs and some white thigh feathers. The adult birds are highly similar and are olive-brown on top, while the belly is light grey. A white eye ring around the eye is a major trade mark of the species, which distinguishes it from its larger cousin, the Kamao. The chicks are brown, with a pattern interchanging white from brown. The bills of the young are more yellow and the belly is more brown then grey. The Puaiohi is some what tubby, however is not as tubby as it larger relative that lives on Hawaii, the Omao. It songs sound like water gurgling.

Birds of Hawaii: `Apapane

4 11 2015

photograph by Peter LaTourrette

Hawaiian Birds

Because the islands are more than 2000 miles from North America or Asia there are some amazing birds in Hawaii. It has been said that the absence of predators and minimal competition allowed them to evolve in peace. It has been estimated that there were at one time are least seventy kinds of birds that were unique to Hawaii. Of these some forty percent are already lost to extinction and some thirty percent more that are considered endangered.

`Apapane (Himatione sanguinea) from the finch family, are considered a Hawaii Songbird. They have at least ten distinctive songs and six different calls. They foraging actively through tree tops of Ohia lehua, consuming the nectar from each flower as they pollinate them. The `Apapane will be aggressive with any bird that dares to drink from its flowers—even larger birds. They forage primarily in the upper canopy and only rarely feed from the ground. It also frequents flowering koa and mamane and has been observed feeding in pines and flowering eucalyptus. They also are known to snack on insects such as spiders and caterpillars.

5 inches. Both sexes look similar. The bodies are crimson red with a white abdomen and under tail coverts. The wings, tail, and legs are black. The bill is short, black, and slightly curved. Juveniles are similar to adults except are a grayish-brown color. Their wings produce a distinct whirring sound in flight.

Their nests are made from twigs, moss, ferns, rootlets, and lichens. They have 2-4 eggs that are white with reddish markings, there is a two week incubation period.

In early Polynesia, red feathers were most valued, as red was a sacred royal color. Feathers were plucked from the `Apapane birds and used in royal ‘ahu ‘ula-cloaks sometimes made from millions of the red and yellow feathers of small forest birds. They strode into battle wearing crested helmets, velvety with the scarlet feathers of the ‘i‘iwi and ‘apapane birds.

Some Favorite Big Island Places

20 10 2015

Like the name states, the Big Island is big. People come to the island of Hawaii and think they can see it all in a week, take my word for it you can’t possibly.

You can however see some highlights and explore the vast natural world and find places that are not overrun by people by getting  a tad off the beaten track. If you pack some decent walking shoes you can go many places and find yourself away from most tourists who go to the same spots and take the same photos.

Greenwell Farm’s Living History Display

Portuguese Sweet Bread hot from the wood fired oven Thursdays 10-1

Exploring the natural world of Hawaii is a highlight and part of that is visiting some of the sacred ancient sites too. These photos portray a few of my favorite places on the Big Island some of which long time island residents we know have yet to visit. Enjoy!

Mahukona a old sugar depot on the north shore

Ancient Heiau by Spencer Park

Hawaiian Birds: Nene

10 10 2015
Photo by Alejandro Bárcenas

Photo by Alejandro Bárcenas

The Nene is the state bird of Hawaii and is also known as the Hawaiian Goose. They are 22-26″ a medium sized goose with a buffy neck with dark furrows. Heavily barred gray-brown above, lighter below (see photo).

Its strong toes are padded and have reduced webbing, an adaptation that allows it to swiftly traverse rough terrain such as lava. Black billed it breeds from November to June. Females incubate the 2-5 eggs for 29 to 32 days.

An herbivore they feed on plants native and introduced.

Nesochen sandivicensis

Nesochen sandivicensis

Birds of Hawaii: Ae’o

10 09 2015
Himantopus mexicanus knudseni

Himantopus mexicanus knudseni

Also knows as the Hawaiian Stilt, the Ae’o is a tall slender wading bird with pink legs and a long thin black bill. It is 16″ and its voice is a loud, sharp “keek” call given in flight and when disturbed on the ground. Also gives a soft more muted call while resting. They exhibit a strong flapping flight with its legs trailing behind. Often found in mudflats, marshy areas, and ponds. They feed on fish, crabs, aquatic insects, and worms.

Fish of Hawaii: Kihikihi

20 07 2015
photo by Mila Zinkova taken in Kona

photo by Mila Zinkova taken in Kona

The Moorish Idol, Zanclus cornutus, called Kinikihi in Hawaiian, stands out in contrasting bands of black, white and yellow. They have relatively small fins so they prefer shallow reef waters and lagoons. Like the butterfly fishes, Moorish Idols mate for life. They often school as juveniles. Adult males tend to be aggressive toward one another.

They grow up to eight inches in length and are not long lived in captivity although they are popular aquarium fish.

The Moors in Africa believe them to be fish of happiness and with their colorful bodies and graceful patterns you can see why they bring a smile.

Birds of Hawaii: Noio

10 07 2015


This bird is frequently observed on the ocean cliffs of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is a seabird in the tern family. It is 14″ with a wingspan of 28″.

Its voice is similar to that of the Brown Noddy but higher pitched and less piercing. The Noio build substantial nests from the wood of the naupaka or ironwood trees and rarely feeds far from its nesting island.


Fish of Hawaii: Lagoon Triggerfish

15 05 2015

This commonly seen fish prefers calm waters and lives in shallow areas and sandy spots. It is sometimes called a Picasso Triggerfish because of the yellow line that extends from it’s mouth giving it the look of an abstract piece of artwork. Perhaps more abstract to most and more challenging to spell than Mississippi is the Hawaiian name for this fish: humu­humu­nuku­nuku­āpua`a

Learning to spell the name of this fish will certainly win the hearts of islanders and before you get any bright ideas it is too many letters for Scrabble.

May First: May Day is Lei Day

1 05 2015

In 1928 poet Don Blanding, sometimes referred to as the poet laureate of Hawaii, wrote an article in the Honolulu newspaper suggesting that a day be set aside to create leis, to keep this important tradition alive in the hearts of all Hawaiians. It was made an official territory holiday just a year later. It remains today an important day of celebration with parades and people wearing their hand crafted leis.

When Don Blanding died. in 1957, his ashes were scattered from lei adorned canoes off the beach in Waikiki a fitting farewell to a man who carried Hawaii in his heart.

Plants of Hawaii: Ki

10 03 2012

Ki Plant

Cordyline fruticosa in Hawaiian Ki may be best known to mainlanders as Ti.

Ti, or Ki, is a member of the agave family its scientific name is Cordyline terminalis. The plant originated in either southeast Asia or Australia. It has a woody base and stalks, and grows from 3 to 12 feet high. The leaves are blade shaped and grow 1 to 2 feet long, in a spiral cluster at the top of each branch. The leaf has a strong central vein.

There are several varieties of Ti. The most common is green, but red Ti is found often in Hawaii. Many other colors are found through Polynesia and Micronesia, including yellow, green, black and purple. Ti produces small red or yellow flowers that become red berries. However, it is rarely grown from seeds, but instead propagated from stalks cut from plants. These cuttings can be put directly in the soil, or rooted first in water.

Ti berries

Extinct Hawaiian Birds: Laysan Rail

5 03 2012

The Laysan Rail or Laysan Crake (Porzana palmeri)


15 10 2011

Pāpa`i Thalamita crenata known as the Blue Pincher Crab is indigenous to the Pacific Islands and unlike most swimming crabs is most active in the daytime.

They are gray to greenish brown with a white tipped claws and a broad back band. Their bodies are sometimes pink and the upper part of their claws are blue. They grow to a width of approximately five inches. The live in brackish muddy areas and sandy areas of salt water. They dine on limu, small pieces of plant and animal matter, snails, and mangrove detritus.

Endangered Plant: ‘Oha Wai

31 07 2011

‘Oha Wai, more commonly referred to as Hawaiian Lobelia, is a plant that was once thought to be extinct is growing again on the Big Island. In the summer of 2011 “West Hawaii Today” reports that the Kohala Watershed Partnership has received a federal grant to protect and restore the endangered plant species known as oha wai. The plants have greenish, white flowers and dark green leaves tinged with red and prefer wet native forests.

Precious Fresh Water and Kalo

17 07 2011

Taro or Kalo as it is known in Hawaiian was the most important food plant in ancient Hawaii. To properly irrigate the Kalo the cultivators known as kanaka mahi’ai had to design a series of ‘auwai or irrigation ditches to insure that their crops would have ample fresh water from the upland areas. Kalo was known as the “plant of the land” and was best grown near cool flowing waters.

Plants Native to Hawaii: ‘Ili’ahi

25 09 2009
photo by Forest and Kim Starr

photo by Forest and Kim Starr

Freycinet sandalwood, known as ‘Ili’ahi in Hawaiian, is a native Hawaiian flowering tree in the European mistletoe family. Leaves on these small trees are leathery and grayish. The green-orange flowers are fragrant. It is found in dry forests and shrublands on all the Hawaiian Islands but was exported to China in vast quantities due to its attractive smell.

Plants Native to Hawaii: Mamaki

25 08 2009
Pipturus albidus photo by Forest and Kim Starr

Pipturus albidus photo by Forest and Kim Starr

Mamaki is the major host plant for the larvae of the Kamehameha butterfly one of the only known native butterflies. It is a large shrub or small tree found in the open forests in the nettle family. The leaves are light green above and whitish beneath. The leafstalks and veins are red and sometimes green. The flowers are clustered.

The fruits were occasionally used as medicine but the major use of the plant was in the production of kapa or bark cloth.

Fresh māmaki leaves were combined with hot stones and spring water by the Native Hawaiians to produce an herbal tea for medicinal use.