Saffron finches, beautiful birds of Maui

11 Pretty Birds Of Maui

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Maui, like all the main Hawaiian islands, is a bird lovers’ paradise, and if you’re an avid birdwatcher make sure you bring your best binoculars!

Maui’s diverse habitats ranging from lush rainforests to coastal wetlands to arid grasslands form a veritable sanctuary for hundreds of bird species, some endemic to Hawaii and many introduced from other parts of the world.

Red-crested cardinal, one of the many imported birds of Maui
Red-crested cardinal, one of the many imported birds of Maui

In urban park settings, you’ll like spot many of the common Maui birds like the spotted dove, the zebra dove and the common myna, but to see some of the rarer and very beautiful birds of Maui you’ll have to head for birding trails on Maui or hotspots like wildlife refuges.

The best birding trails and hotspots on Maui are:

Our guide to birds on Maui and photos of Maui birds will help you with their identification from physical markings, coloration and sounds.

Bird lover? Check out detailed guides to Hawaiian birds, birds of Kauai and birds of Oahu!

Hey, by the way! Snorkeling is probably at the top of your Maui itinerary — check out our guides to the best tours to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, two of the top snorkel spots on Maui!

A northern cardinal in the rainforest canopy of Haleakala National Park | Birds of Maui
A northern cardinal in the rainforest canopy of Haleakala National Park | Birds of Maui

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Pretty Birds of Maui

Hawaiian Honeycreeper (ʻApapane, Himatione sanguinea)

Cloaked in a robe of ruby with contrasting black wings and tails, the Apapane is a sight to behold in Maui’s rainforest, especially when its red plumage glistens against the sunlight filtering through the canopy.

Apapane, endemic honeycreeper, pretty birds in Maui
Apapane, endemic honeycreeper, pretty birds in Maui

The ‘Apapane is a small nectar-feeding bird that flits from one flower to another with acrobatic flight patterns, and is a crucial pollinator of Hawaii’s native flowers including the ohia lehua blossoms.

Apapanes are known for their gregarious social behavior, and we spotted a small flock of them in the Hosmer Grove trail in the Haleakala National Park, a common hotspot for many pretty Maui birds.

Look for a flash of brilliant red against the emerald green of the forest.

Hawaiian Goose (Nēnē, Branta sandvicensis)

The Haleakala National Park visitor centers are great places to spot these iconic Hawaiian geese, and if you are driving up to the Summit District visitor center, you’ll see road signs with their icons warning you to be careful not to run over these beautiful endangered birds!

One of the big birds of Maui, adult nenes can reach 1 1/2 feet in height and weigh between 1.5 to 3 kgs.

Nene, endemic Hawaiian geese | Maui Birds
Nene, endemic Hawaiian geese | Maui Birds

Endemic to Hawaii, the nene’s feet have evolved partial webbing to adapt to walking on rugged lava fields.

We saw several of them here, and some blissfully sounding their characteristic “ney-ney” honks – definitely made the day for our kids!

With a black head and face, buff-colored cheeks, and a heavily barred neck that looks almost like a striped scarf, the nene’s unique appearance makes it readily identifiable.

ʻIʻiwi (Scarlet Hawaiian Honeycreeper, Drepanis coccinea)

The ‘i’iwi, a medium sized honeycreeper, is yet another of Hawaii’s endemic forest birds, birds found nowhere else in the world!

The iiwi is one of the easier birds on Maui to identify based on their physical characteristics: dazzling crimson plumage with black wings and tail and a long, sharply curved, salmon-colored beak.

I'iwi, scarlet honeycreeper | Birds of Maui
I’iwi, scarlet honeycreeper | Birds of Maui

The curved beak in particular is a textbook example of co-evolution with the tubular flowers of Hawaii’s native plants, leading to a mutual relationship of the flowers providing nourishing nectar and the iiwi pollinating the plants.

You can spot the ‘i’iwi in the lush, high-elevation, cloud rainforests of Haleakala National Park on birding trails like the Hosmer Grove Trail and the Waikamoi Preserve.

We were completely mesmerized by the ‘i’iwi’s signature, precision-hovering pattern near a blooming flower followed by swift darts to the next flower!

Red-Crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata, Brazilian Cardinal)

The red-crested cardinal is one of the Maui birds that most tourists will spot on their vacation and readily identify based on their signature red head and crest contrasting sharply with a snowy white chest and muted gray back and tail.

Red-crested cardinal, one of the more common birds of Maui
Red-crested cardinal, one of the more common birds of Maui

We spotted many of these regal red-crested cardinals with their crowns bobbing up and down as they foraged for seeds and insects on the green lawns of our Kaanapali Beach resort.

We also saw some in the old historic district of Lahaina and on the Wailea Coastal walk with their bright reds making them easily visible against the backdrop of green foliage.

Red-crested cardinals is an introduced bird species from South America (hence the nickname Brazilian Cardinal), and one of four types of cardinals commonly seen on Maui.

ʻAmakihi (Maui ʻAmakihi, Chlorodrepanis virens)

A generalist diet of nectar, insects and fruit along with remarkable adaptability to a wide range of altitudes has allowed the Maui ‘Amakihi to triumph against loss of habitat and avian malaria, making it one of the few endemic forest birds to avoid extinction.

The ‘Amakihi is an active, diminutive Hawaiian honeycreeper with a delightful, bright olive-green plumage that stands out against the lush green backdrop of Maui’s rainforests.

Amakihi honeycreeper
Amakihi honeycreeper | Endemic birds of Maui

We were lucky to spot one in the Hosmer Grove of Maui’s Haleakala National Park, mainly because our guide knew where the nest was, a small cup-shaped nest, well-hidden and camouflaged, with mama ‘Amakihi brooding on a clutch of eggs.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The male Northern Cardinal is a medium sized song bird resplendent in brilliant red plumage covering its entire body except for a distinctive black mask on its face and throat.

Northern cardinal, one of the pretty red birds of Maui
Northern cardinal, one of the pretty red birds of Maui

We saw two of these pretty Maui birds in our Kaanapali Beach resort, the male perched conspicuously and putting on a courtship display, whistling and dancing to attract the female who was seeming oblivious to his antics!

The Northern Cardinal along with the red-crested cardinal are two of the more common birds in Maui and can be easily spotted in tourist hubs like Kaanapali, Lahaina and Wailea.

Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola)

A small active song bird from the finch family, the Saffron Finch brings a delightful splash of golden-yellow brilliance to Maui’s landscape.

Saffron finch, one of the prettiest birds on Maui
Saffron finch, one of the prettiest birds on Maui

The saffron tinge on their forehead is so eye-catching, we thought these pretty Maui birds were like drops of sunshine as they foraged for seeds and insects on the green lawns of our Kaanapali resort.

You can’t miss these beautiful yellow birds, they gather in small flocks in urban and beach parks, golf courses and grassy areas in Lahaina, Wailea, Kaanapali and the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge.

We even saw some nests from our Kaanapali Beach resort balcony, and it was a delight to wake up to their morning songs consisting of clear, sweet notes.

Japanese White-Eye (Mejiro, Zosterops japonicus)

The Japanese White-Eye, locally known as Mejiro, is a petite, agile bird with olive-green upper body and light yellow underbelly.

Named for a signature, conspicuous white ring around its eyes, the Japanese white-eye can be spotted in small flocks, flitting through trees and shrubs as they forage for nectar or insects.

Warbling white eye, one of the pretty song birds of Maui
Warbling white eye, one of the pretty song birds of Maui

Introduced to Hawaii in the late 1920s to control insect population, the Japanese white-eye is now one of the most abundant bird species, having adapted well into the island ecosystem and playing a crucial role in pollination of native Hawaiian plants.

We spotted the Japanese white-eye multiple times on Maui, a testament to their widespread presence, in gardens and forests from Lahaina and Kaanapali Beach to Wailea to upland forests in Haleakala National Park.

Listen for their high-pitched calls while on hiking trails.

Hawaiian Stilt (Aeʻo, Himantopus mexicanus knudseni)

The Hawaiian Stilt, an endemic subspecies of the Black-Necked Stilt, can be easily spotted in Maui’s Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge or the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary, or in their natural habitats along the coast of Lahaina and Kihei.

One of the most elegant of the water birds of Maui, the Hawaiian stilt has long, slender legs (hence the name), with striking black upper body sharply contrasting with a snowy white underbody and thin long beak perfect for probing for food hiding in the mud.

Hawaiian Stilt, one of the more elegant water birds of Maui
Hawaiian Stilt, one of the more elegant water birds of Maui

We were lucky to observe one of their fascinating behaviors through binoculars: mobbing and chasing another bird that ventured too close to protect their nests, which are built on the ground in exposed areas close to water

Red-Whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus)

With a prominent black crest and an eye-catching bright red patch below the eyes, identifying the red-whiskered bulbul is usually a breeze.

Commonly see in urban gardens and parks, the red-whiskered bulbul is usually spotted perched on tree branches or flying with rapid wing beats and short glides.

Red-whiskered bulbul, one of the more invasive birds of Maui
Red-whiskered bulbul, one of the more invasive birds of Maui

Though only recently introduced in the 1960s, the red-whiskered bulbul has adapted too well to the island, often at the expense of native species that are displaced due to the bulbuls aggressive tendencies to protect their territories.

Rose-Ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

The Rose-Ringed Parakeet is a charismatic, medium sized, parrot that is highly social and intelligent.

Males have a prominent black and rose colored ring around their neck, while both male and female rose-ringed parakeets have vivid green plumage, long pointed tail and a hooked red beak.

Rose-ringed parakeets, pretty birds of Maui
Rose-ringed parakeets, pretty birds of Maui

We were delighted to see a huge flock of these pretty birds flying in unison over our heads while visiting the historic Lahaina district on Maui, but shocked when we learned later that rose-ringed parakeets are considered a highly invasive bird species on the Hawaiian islands, especially Oahu.

Apparently their ability to adapt and flourish in a wide variety of habitats has led to an explosion in their numbers.

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:

A striking red Northern Cardinal | Red birds of Maui
A striking red Northern Cardinal | Red birds of Maui

The Best Maui Tours

Have you booked these top-rated Maui guided adventures yet?

Small-group Road to Hana tour so everyone in your group can sit back and enjoy the views without worrying about negotiating hairpin bends or finding parking at popular stops!

A Haleakala sunrise tour so you can experience the bucket-list sunrise atop the volcano without the need to reserve a parking spot or drive up in the dark!

A Maui whale watching raft tour, which will let you see the massive humpback whales at eye level! (You can also opt for a more sedate boat whale watching tour.) A MUST winter Maui activity!

A Maui snorkeling excursion that combines the Molokini Crater with Turtle Town, the two most epic snorkeling destinations on the island!

A 7-line Maui zipline experience where you can glide over the forests on the north shore of Maui. Enjoy ocean views and navigate obstacle course challenges!

An oceanfront luau in Wailea where you can enjoy a sunset buffet and traditional Polynesian entertainment. You can also opt for a Kaanapali oceanfront luau.

Renting a Car in Maui

The best things to do in Maui are located all over the island.

Public transport options on Maui are minimal to non-existent, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Maui trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Maui 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 Maui car rentals now!

Where to Stay in Maui

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 Maui you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

By far the majority of visitors to Maui choose to base on the west side, where there is a large selection of accommodations available, from resorts and hotels to vacation rentals.

We suggest starting your search for Maui accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO. You can filter to choose a specific area, such as Kihei, Kapalua, or Wailea.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in Kihei and Kapalua and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

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

Iiwi, endemic honeycreeper, in Hosmer, Haleakala National Park | Maui Birds
Iiwi, endemic honeycreeper, in Hosmer, Haleakala National Park | Maui Birds

More Maui Travel Inspiration

If you are considering a trip to Maui, read some of our other comprehensive guides to craft the ultimate Maui itinerary!

If you are a first-time visitor to Maui, start by reading our article on the best things to do in Maui. From beautiful beaches and lush rainforest to Maui’s volcanic crater, our round-up captures the most iconic Maui experiences and activities.

If you are dreaming of a winter getaway to a tropical paradise, read our guide on why you should visit Maui in winter!

If you are planning a brief first visit to Maui, here’s our 3-day Maui itinerary to help you flesh out your own trip! And if you are considering a couples getaway to Maui, read about the top romantic things to do in Maui!

Driving the Road to Hana is one of Maui’s bucket-list experiences. We have a comprehensive guide to the best stops on the Road to Hana, including waterfalls and short hikes on the way.

One of the top stops on the route is Wai’anapanapa State Park, which requires reservations. Read our full guide to Maui’s black sand beach in this popular state park!

Maui boasts one of only two national parks in Hawaii. Read our round-up of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park. We also have the ultimate guide to sunrise at Haleakala.

We also have a guide to the best hikes in Haleakala National Park, and in-depth hiking guides to the two most epic hikes in the park: the Sliding Sands Trail and the Pipiwai Trail.

Speaking of hiking, also be sure to check out our round-up of the best Maui hikes, from easy to challenging. Plus, peruse our complete guides to hiking the popular Kapalua Coastal Trail in northwest Maui, and the Waihee Ridge Trail for astounding views!

We also have a round-up of the best waterfalls in Maui, from the 400-foot Waimoku Falls to Upper Waikani Falls near Hana. Some Maui waterfalls can be seen from viewpoints whereas others require hiking.

Water activities are plentiful in Maui! Check out our epic guide to whale watching in Maui, and our guide to the best Molokini snorkeling tours and the best Turtle Town snorkeling.

If you’d rather snorkel from shore, read our round-up of the best snorkel spots in West Maui.

Every Maui itinerary should have plenty of beach time: there are so many beautiful beaches in Maui that you are spoiled for choice. We have a round-up of the best beaches in South Maui, plus a detailed guide to Wailea Beach in southwest Maui, and one for Maluaka Beach along the Turtle Town stretch of coast.

We also have articles on the much-visited Kaanapali Beach, the popular Napili Beach and local favorite Keawakapu Beach. Along the northwest side, Honolua Bay is a famous surfing spot, and Ho’okipa Beach, near Paia, is a windsurfing mecca.

If you are looking to experience a different side of Maui, plan a visit to the Iao Valley State Monument. The lush landscapes and serene ambience will wow you! Also read our guide to Maui’s state parks, which include popular Makena State Park, home to Big Beach and Little Beach.

Spend a day exploring Upcountry Maui. Some of the best things to do in Upcountry Maui include touring farms and gardens. Help milk goats, tour a tea farm, go wine tasting and much more.

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Bookmark our helpful guide to the birds of Maui -- birds that you may spot while sightseeing or hiking on the Hawaiian island.


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