A Northern Cardinal, one of the introduced Hawaiian bird species, in Kauai

Hawaiian Birds With Red Heads

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Wondering what those Hawaiian birds with red heads were that you just spotted?

Most likely you just saw a red-crested cardinal, one of the most common red-headed Hawaiian birds!

But there are many more, and here’s a short list of Hawaiian birds with red heads:

  • Red-crested cardinal
  • ‘Apapane
  • ‘I’iwi
  • Northern cardinal
  • Yellow-billed cardinal
  • Red avadat
  • House finch
  • Red junglefowl

Not just eye-catching, the vivid crimson coloration of crowns are a deep reflection of evolution honing these birds, usually males, to attract mates and to signal dominance or territoriality.

Red crested cardinals | Hawaiian Birds with Red Heads
Red crested cardinals | Hawaiian Birds with Red Heads

The more vivid the coloration, the more easily these red-headed bird species stand out against the lush green foliage, making them easier to spot for fellow birds and prospective mates.

The red pigmentation is derived from carotenoids in the diet of the red-headed Hawaiian birds and indicates good health and strong genetics, further enhancing their appeal during mating season.

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

Hey, by the way! Visiting Hawaii? While you finalize your packing, don’t forget to book your tours and activities, way in advance, to avoid disappointments! Start here, and pick the islands you plan to visit. Or go directly to the best Oahu tours, the best things to do in Maui, and the best Kauai helicopter tours!

Red Headed Cardinals

Cardinals are an introduced bird species, and three types of cardinals are common on Hawaii: the Red-Crested Cardinal, the Northern Cardinal and the Yellow-Billed Cardinal.

Of these the red-crested cardinals are most common while the yellow-billed cardinals are relatively rare.

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As the above images show, you can easily distinguish each based on their signature characteristics.

The Red-Crested Cardinal, often called the Brazilian Cardinal, has a crest and only a red head, the remainder of its upper body is gray and lower body snowy white.

The Northern Cardinal, often called Redbird, is crested and completely red except for a signature black mask on its face.

The Yellow-billed Cardinal looks like the red-crested cardinal but has a distinctive yellow beak and does not have a crest.

Native Red Headed Hawaiian Birds

The ‘apapane and the ‘i’iwi, two endemic Hawaiian honeycreepers, are common Hawaiian birds with red heads that you’ll spot on the birding trails in the rainforests of Hawaii, usually at higher elevations.

The ‘i’iwi has a signature long curved beak, a hallmark of coevolutionary adaptation to Hawaii’s tubular, nectar-rich, native flowers like the ohia lehua blossoms.

The ‘apapane, also a nectar specialist, has a sharper and only slightly curved beak.

Other Hawaiian Birds with Red Heads

Red junglefowl, wild ancestors of chicken, are found on all the main islands, and many have red heads.

Males of the common house finch have red coloration on their heads and foreheads, more prominent during mating season.

The Red Avadavat, another member of the finch family, often referred to as the Strawberry Finch, has a bright red beak, red coloration on head and reddish body with brownish wings.

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:

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Discover red-headed birds in Hawaii that you may see when hiking or sightseeing!


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