KULANI, HAWAII – A new Christmas tradition is taking place in remote forests above Hilo. Early in the morning, volunteers scan the trees, looking for jewels far more beautiful than any Christmas ornament. These volunteers are on a quest to find Hawai‘i’s rarest native birds.
On December 15, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Natural Area Reserves System (NARS), the Three Mountain Alliance (TMA), and the Hawai‘i Audubon Society invited community members to help search through the forest and count native birds in an annual survey of the forest.
This is the fourth year that Christmas Bird Counts was held in Kūlani and the 113th since the Audubon Society started this family tradition. Volunteers were paired with expert bird watchers to record all sightings or sounds of the birds.
“The Pu‘u Maka‘ala Natural Area Reserve at Kūlani is one of the last refuges for Hawai‘i’s native birds. This free event gives the community a rare chance to see these beautiful species,” says Anya Tagawa, NARS education coordinator.
One of the native birds viewable at the Pu‘u Maka‘ala NAR is the endangered ‘Akiapōlā‘au, a Hawaiian Honeycreeper only found on the Big Island. This bright yellow bird has evolved to fill the role occupied by woodpeckers in many other parts of the world. It creeps along trunks and branches tapping holes in the rotten bark with its lower beak and extracts grubs and other insects with its sharply curved upper beak.