Pretty birds of Kauai

21 Stunning Birds Of Kauai With Photos & Where To Spot Them!

Avid birdwatcher vacationing in Kauai? Keep your eyes peeled, you’ll likely spot many pretty birds of Kauai, some found nowhere else in the world!

We’ve been to Kauai many times, and our family has been fortunate to spot and photograph many beautiful birds in Kauai.

With hundreds of bird species deliberately or accidentally introduced to the island of Kauai, spotting pretty birds in usually not the problem.

The frustration usually is in putting a name to the bird, and to overcome that, I have put together a list of birds on Kauai you might see on nature hikes, in wildlife refuges and around city parks.

Nene, Hawaiian geese, State Bird of Hawaii | Endemic Hawaiian birds of Kauai
Nene, Hawaiian geese, State Bird of Hawaii | Endemic Hawaiian birds of Kauai

Luckily, many Kauai birds have distinctive features, and with our identification chart to birds on Kauai, you’ll be able to easily tag them.

If you spot one of the rarer, native birds of Kauai, you might want to update Cornell Lab’s eBird count, so others can benefit, and look for them where you last saw them.

And apart from the native Hawaiian birds in Kauai, many of the introduced birds are quite stunning. You don’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t seen an Indian peacock dancing or heard a white-rumped shama singing!

Obviously an exhaustive list of all the species of birds in Kauai is not our intention here. What we give you in this post are the pretty Kauai birds that you’ll likely see or want to tag when you upload the photos on your Instagram!

Don’t forget to add a good pair of binoculars to your Hawaii packing list!

Hey, by the way! Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour! Check out the five highest rated Kauai helicopter tours for 2024!

Dancing peacock in a Kauai park | Birds of Kauai
Dancing peacock in a Kauai park | Birds of Kauai

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Native Hawaiian Birds of Kauai

Let’s start with native Hawaiian birds on Kauai, birds that are endemic to the islands of Hawaii (not found anywhere else in the world).

Nene (Hawaiian Goose), State Bird of Hawaii

The nene or Hawaiian goose is the state bird of Hawaii, and though related to the Canadian goose, has evolved into a separate bird species found only on the Hawaiian islands.

Nene, Hawaiian goose | Endemic Hawaiian birds of Kauai
Nene, Hawaiian goose | Endemic Hawaiian birds of Kauai

The nene is endangered, and you’ll often spot them on Kauai’s many golf courses and ranches, where they are protected.

We saw a few pretty ones at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, right near the entrance.

Apapane

The ‘apapane is a very pretty, crimson-red honeycreeper, one of the few endemic Hawaiian honeycreepers that are abundant enough to be commonly seen.

Apapane, an easily spotted honeycreeper | Endemic Hawaiian birds in Kauai
Apapane, an easily spotted honeycreeper | Endemic Hawaiian birds in Kauai

They feed on the nectar from the flowers of the ‘Ohi’a Lehua trees, native Hawaiian trees, found all over the islands of Hawaii.

On Kauai, we looked for flashes of red in the green rainforest canopy while hiking the Pihea Vista Trail to the Alak’ai Swamp Trail in Koke’e State Park, and voila, there was a pretty red apapane feeding on nectar!

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

I’iwi

The i’iwi is another small, scarlet-red Hawaiian honeycreeper, endemic to the Hawaiian islands, and fairly easy to spot on forest hikes in Koke’e State Park on Kauai.

I'iwi, a Hawaiian honeycreeper | Endemic Hawaiian birds on Kauai
I’iwi, a Hawaiian honeycreeper | Endemic Hawaiian birds on Kauai

We saw a couple of these beautiful Kauai birds while hiking the Pu’u ka Ohelo aka the Berry Flat Trail and the Alakai Swamp Trail in Kokee State Park.

These honeycreepers feed on the nectar of flowers of higher elevation forest trees like the ohi’a lehua.

Pueo (Hawaiian Short-eared Owl)

Evolved from the commonly found short-eared owl on the mainland USA, the pueo or Hawaiian short-eared owl is one of the two native Hawaiian predatory birds (the other is the ‘Io or the Hawaiian hawk).

Pueo, short-eared owl, usually spotted at dawn or dusk | Endemic Hawaiian birds on Kauai
Pueo, short-eared owl, usually spotted at dawn or dusk | Endemic Hawaiian birds on Kauai

The pueo feed on small mammals like mice and rats, and are active at dawn and dusk. They are easier to spot when flying in the sky, in circles, looking for prey.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Hawaiian Gallinule

The Hawaiian Gallinule can be easily spotted at the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, wandering through the taro fields and marshland, and is a black moorhen with a distinctive, bright red marking on its forehead.

Hawaiian Gallinule, water birds on Kauai | Endemic Hawaiian birds in Kauai
Hawaiian Gallinule, water birds on Kauai | Endemic Hawaiian birds in Kauai

The Hawaiian gallinule, a water bird native to Hawaii prefers the lowland marshes and wetlands.

Hawaiian Stilt

Also at the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, you can spot the Hawaiian Stilt, black-necked stilts endemic to Hawaii, and one of the prettier water birds on Kauai.

Hawaiian Stilt, pretty water birds of Kauai | Endemic Hawaiian Birds in Kauai
Hawaiian Stilt, pretty water birds of Kauai | Endemic Hawaiian Birds in Kauai

Named for their elegant, long legs that look like stilts, these water birds feed on fish and other small invertebrates found in the marshes.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Native Birds of Kauai

Given the hundreds of miles of ocean distance between the islands of Hawaii, several bird species have evolved into separate, independent species, distinct from those found in the other islands.

Elepaio in a cup-shaped nest, evolved into separate species | Endemic birds of Kauai
Elepaio in a cup-shaped nest, evolved into separate species | Endemic birds of Kauai

Endemic birds of Kauai, those bird species that are found nowhere else in the world, not even the other Hawaiian islands, have dwindled significantly to a handful.

These native Kauai birds had no defenses for predators like mongooses and feral cats introduced to the island.

The more recent culprit is tiny: mosquitoes that carry avian malaria, a disease that has crippled the populations of the endemic birds of Kauai to an extent that many species are believed extinct.

The remaining few Kauai honeycreeper species are found at the higher elevation forests, where the mosquitoes are fewer.

Akikiki (Kauai Creeper)

Only 5 ‘akikiki are believed to be left in the wild, so your odds of spotting one are slim. If at all you see one, it will likely be in the higher elevation forests of Koke’e State Park.

Akikiki or the Kauai creeper | Endemic birds of Kauai
Akikiki or the Kauai creeper | Endemic birds of Kauai

This beautiful native honeycreeper, also called the Kauai creeper, usually are spotted in pairs, and recent sightings have been limited to the high elevation Alaka’i plateau, on the native ohi’a lehua trees.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Kauai Amakihi

The Kauai ‘amakihi is now considered a separate bird species from the Oahu ‘amakihi and the Hawaii ‘amakihi.

A petite honeycreeper, and one of the more abundant endemic birds of Kauai, the ‘amakihi is a pretty, yellowish olive bird with a slightly curved beak.

Amakihi honeycreeper | Endemic birds of Kauai
Amakihi honeycreeper | Endemic birds of Kauai

Our kids spotted a few while hiking the Berry Flat Trail and the Pihea Vista Trail at Koke’e State Park.

Kauai Elepaio

Per Hawaiian folklore, ancient canoe makers followed the ‘elepaio, native birds of Kauai, to see which trees they frequented, and would not use the wood from these trees under the assumption that insects had corrupted the wood.

Kauai 'elepaio, flycatcher | Native birds of Kauai
Kauai ‘elepaio, flycatcher | Native birds of Kauai

Small and pert, these beautiful reddish brown birds search for insects under the bark of forest trees, and their quick movements help you zero in on them.

We saw a couple of these pretty Kauai birds in the wet forests of Koke’e State Park while hiking the Alaka’i Swamp Trail.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Common Beautiful Birds in Kauai

Apart from the endemic birds of Kauai and Hawaii, hundreds of bird species were introduced to the islands of Hawaii, and specifically to Kauai!

Some were deliberate like in the case of the now ubiquitous common myna, a misguided attempt to address insects damaging valuable crops.

Others were accidental, like the escape of birds kept as pets from cages or during tropical storms, like the rose-ringed parakeets.

We list here some of the pretty and striking birds you’ll see commonly in urban parks and on most nature hikes.

The most common birds in Kauai are the common myna, the house finch, the house sparrow, the zebra dove and the spotted dove. You’ll see these everywhere!

Red Crested Cardinal

Wondering what the pretty red headed bird on Kauai is? Most likely, the red-crested cardinal!

Easily recognizable by its striking red crest and head, the red crested cardinal is one of three cardinal birds on Kauai (the other two are the northern cardinal and the yellow-billed cardinal).

Red-crested cardinal, beautiful, red-headed bird | Pretty birds of Kauai
Red-crested cardinal, beautiful, red-headed bird | Pretty birds of Kauai

A very social bird, we spotted an entire flock of red-crested cardinals foraging for seeds and insects in Hanalei.

Northern Cardinal

A close relative of the red-crested cardinal, the northern cardinal is a striking red, with a black mask around the beak.

Northern Cardinal, beautiful red bird | Common beautiful birds on Kauai
Northern Cardinal, beautiful red bird | Common beautiful birds on Kauai

We saw a couple on the Berry Flat Trail in Koke’e State Park, but these pretty red birds of Kauai can be seen all over, even in many urban parks.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Warbling White Eye

The warbling white eye is a small songbird, one of the more common songbirds on Kauai, and you’re likely to hear it well before you see it, since it can be quite noisy.

Easily identifiable by a distinct white ring around the eyes, the warbling white eye is olive green with a yellow throat and light-colored underbelly.

Warbling white-eye, small song bird | Song birds of Kauai
Warbling white-eye, small song bird | Song birds of Kauai

You can find the warbling white-eye along the Wailua River Valley, near the waterfalls, or while hiking on the Kuilau Ridge Trail.

White-rumped Shama

Probably one of the more melodious song birds on Kauai, the white-rumped shama is widely distributed across the island, and can be easily spotted in state parks like Koke’e State Park and Haena State Park, and along the Wailua River valley.

White-rumped shama, beautiful song bird | Common Birds of Kauai
White-rumped shama, beautiful song bird | Common Birds of Kauai

We saw a couple while hiking the Kuilau Ridge Trail, and stayed around to listen to its beautiful song!

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Scaly-Breasted Munia

The scaly-breasted munia, readily identifiable by distinctive white and black scale pattern on its underside, is known as a ricebird, and they feed on grass seed in flocks.

Scaly-breasted munia, ricebird | Common, beautiful birds of Kauai
Scaly-breasted munia, ricebird | Common, beautiful birds of Kauai

We spotted some on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, a coastal hike near Poipu, foraging for seeds along the golf course, and in Poipu Beach Park, which also has some grassy areas.

Rose-ringed Parakeet

The rose-ringed parakeet, a beautiful green bird with a red beak, is a sociable bird, and you’ll see large flocks of these birds in urban areas like Poipu, Lihue and Kapaa.

Rose-ringed parakeets, an invasive bird species | Birds of Kauai
Rose-ringed parakeets, an invasive bird species | Birds of Kauai

We saw a huge flock of these pretty green birds flying across Poipu!

Though pretty, unfortunately these birds are highly invasive and destructive, and are considered a threat to Kauai’s endemic bird species.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

Rarer Beautiful Birds in Kauai

While the above birds are among the more common species of birds in Kauai, and easy to spot on your vacation, there are also some very pretty birds that are rarer, but rewarding to view!

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

The greater necklaced laughingthrush, named after a characteristic necklace-like ring around its throat, is found in the forests of Kauai.

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

Though relatively hard to spot, they are reasonably common along the Wailua River Valley, and we saw a few while hiking the Kuilau Ridge Trail.

Saffron Finch

Saffron finch is a stunning yellow-orange bird with a beautiful song. While relatively common on Oahu and Big Island, these pretty birds are quite rare on Kauai.

Saffron finch, beautiful songbird
Saffron finch, beautiful songbird

The best spot for viewing them on Kauai is around the Waimea area, in parks, foraging for seeds and insects in the grass.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Indian Peafowl

An iconic bird from the Indian subcontinent, the peacock is a stunning large bird, about the size of a turkey, with a majestic long tail.

The peacock’s mating dance, where it flairs up its tail feathers into an amazing colorful fan, is a must see!

Stunning peacock wandering in a Kauai park | Birds of Kauai
Stunning peacock wandering in a Kauai park | Birds of Kauai

We saw many peacocks while visiting the Hindu Monastery in the Wailua River Valley, where they have a sanctuary for these beautiful birds.

You can also see them at Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Kapa’a if you attend the luau there, or infrequently around parks in Kauai.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Where to Spot Birds on Kauai?

Hiking Trails

Many of Kauai’s trails offer excellent opportunities to view some of Kauai’s pretty birds.

The most popular birding trails include the Berry Flat Trail and the Alaka’i Swamp Trail in Koke’e State Park, waterfall hikes on Kauai, the Kuilau Ridge Trail, and the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail.

You can spot most of the endemic birds of Kauai in Koke’e State Park.

The Wailua River State Park is also an excellent birding location.

The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail near Poipu is great for viewing coastal birds of Kauai, many water birds and nene (along the golf course)

Wildlife Refuges

Visiting the Hanalei National Wildife Refuge and the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is a must for bird lovers.

Many of Kauai’s water birds and sea birds have a protected sanctuary here, and you can view them in large numbers.

Botanical Gardens

Kauai has beautiful botanical gardens, many of which like the Limahuli Garden, the Allerton Garden and the McBryde Garde are also a sanctuary for endangered Kauai birds.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

Hiking Gear Checklist

Many of Hawaii’s hikes are demanding, make sure you are well equipped and well prepared. Here’s what we typically take with us:

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

The Best Kauai Tours

Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?

Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)

Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)

Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)

Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)

Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour (super popular, less expensive than a heli tour, large bubble windows for flightseeing!)

Renting a Car in Kauai

The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.

Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Kauai car rentals now!

Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle

Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!

This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Kauai now!

Where to Stay in Kauai

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Kauai you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

Since you’ll likely want to base in a couple places on your trip to Kauai, we suggest starting your search for Kauai accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in both Poipu and Princeville and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Kauai vacation rental on VRBO now!

Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!

Sign cautioning drivers to watch out for the birds of Kauai
Sign cautioning drivers to watch out for the birds of Kauai

More Kauai Travel Inspiration

Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!

If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.

Planning to split a week between Kauai and another island? We have a 3 days in Kauai itinerary article you must read to help flesh out what you would like to see and do!

Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.

Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.

We also have visitor’s guides to popular parks like Waimea Canyon State Park, which protects the namesake canyon, nearby Kokee State Park, and the remote but beautiful Polihale State Park.

Also check out the ultimate guide to visiting Haena State Park on Kauai’s north shore, and a full guide to hiking the epic Kalalau Trail.

Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight. We also have an article on everything you need to know to visit Secret Falls Kauai on an exciting kayaking and hiking tour.

Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.

And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!

Hiking enthusiasts will want to read our article on the best hikes in Koke’e State Park: the trails here are some of the best hikes in Kauai!

We have detailed trail guides for the most popular Koke’e hikes, from the scenic Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo’o Falls, to the epic Awa’awapuhi Trail, challenging but very rewarding!

Also discover the best hikes in Waimea Canyon State Park, and the best hikes on Kauai’s north shore.

We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.

Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore.

Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei, the charming town that sits in the middle of Kauai’s scenic north shore.

Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore!

We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches, and an article on the best Kauai south shore beaches!

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Learn about the many species of birds you may spot when you visit the Hawaiian island of Kauai in Hawaii! Land birds, water birds, birds endemic to Kauai, rare and endangered birds and more!

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