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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Bird watching at the Kilauea Wildlife Refuge

Michael, the other day, made reservations to the Kilauea Wildlife Refuge. The lighthouse is closed because of Covid restriction but you can walk by it.

We spent the day bird watching and walking along some area beaches. Another relaxing day. We learned so much at the wildlife refuge. Very interesting information!!!! Beautiful scenery!!!!! It isn't easy taking pictures of birds in flight but I had fun trying.

The refuge center is home to a variety of songbirds, native plants, seabirds, and the Hawaiian goose (nēnē).

Worldwide, human expansion and development has caused dramatic declines in native plants and animals. The National Wildlife Refuge system was established in 1903 to protect, restore, and conserve wildlife populations and their habitats. Currently National Wildlife Refuges are the largest acreage of public lands and waters set aside for fish, wildlife, and plants in the world – with more than 150 million acres and at least one National Wildlife Refuge in every state.

"Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is made up of the Kīlauea Point peninsula, Mōkōlea Point peninsula, and Crater Hill. The original 31 acres, on which the lighthouse stands, were transferred from the U.S. Coast Guard when the Refuge was originally established in 1985. In 1988, the Refuge was expanded to include Mōkōlea Point and the Crater Hill parcel, the latter was primarily donated by the Pali Moana Corporation.

The Refuge is located on the northern-most point of Kauai and the main Hawaiian islands. The Refuge also contains a portion of the former Kīlauea volcanic vent and a spectacular 568-foot ocean bluff. Kīlauea Point is home to thousands of migratory and resident seabirds. The Refuge is used by Laysan albatross (mōlī), red-footed boobies (ʻā), red- and white-tailed tropicbirds (koaʻe), great frigatebirds (ʻiwa), wedge-tailed shearwaters (‘ua‘u kani), Pacific golden plover (kolea), threatened Hawaiian goose (nēnē), threatened Newell's shearwater (‘a‘o), and Hawaiian short-eared owl (pueo).

The Refuge is the best place in the state to view seabirds rarely seen from land, like the red-footed booby (ʻā in Hawaiian), great frigate bird ('iwa), and Laysan albatross (mōlī). The world's rarest goose and Hawaii's state bird, the Hawaiian goose (nēnē) is a frequent sight as well. Visitors also have a chance to view spinner dolphins (nai‘a), Hawaiian monk seals (‘Ilio holo i ka uaua), green sea turtles (honu), and humpback whales (koholā, October - April) in the water below. Native Hawaiian coastal plants are also abundant."

Red Tailed Tropic Bird

There were two wedge-tailed shearwaters in their burrow in the ground. One is looking out while the other is looking at the back of the burrow.

Nesting and resting

The white you see are birds.

Quite a difference in size!


The nene, also known as the nēnē or the Hawaiian goose, is a species of bird endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. The official bird of the state of Hawaiʻi, the nene is exclusively found in the wild on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauaʻi, Molokai, and Hawaiʻi. The Hawaiian name nēnē comes from its soft call.

The specific name sandvicensis refers to the Sandwich Islands, a former name for the Hawaiian Islands.

It is thought that the nene evolved from the Canada goose (Branta canadensis), which most likely arrived on the Hawaiian islands about 500,000 years ago, shortly after the island of Hawaii was formed. This ancestor is the progenitor of the nene as well as the prehistoric giant Hawaii goose(Branta rhuax) and nēnē-nui (Branta hylobadistes). The nēnē-nui was larger than the nene, varied from flightless to flighted depending on the individual, and inhabited the island of Maui. Similar fossil geese found on O'ahu and Kauai may be of the same species. The giant Hawaiʻi goose was restricted to the island of Hawaiʻi and measured 1.2 m (3.9 ft) in length with a mass of 8.6 kg (19 lb), making it more than four times larger than the nene. It is believed that the herbivorous giant Hawaiʻi goose occupied the same ecological niche as the goose-like ducks known as moa-nalo, which were not present on the Big Island.Based on mitochondrial DNA found in fossils, all Hawaiian geese, living and extinct, are closely related to the giant Canada goose (B. c. maxima) and dusky Canada goose (B. c. occidentalis).

The nene is a medium-sized goose at 41 cm (16 in) tall. Although they spend most of their time on the ground, they are capable of flight, with some individuals flying daily between nesting and feeding areas. Females have a mass of 1.525–2.56 kg (3.36–5.64 lb), while males average 1.695–3.05 kg (3.74–6.72 lb), 11% larger than females. Adult males have a black head and hindneck, buff cheeks and heavily furrowed neck. The neck has black and white diagonal stripes. Aside from being smaller, the female Nene is similar to the male in coloration. The adult's bill, legs and feet are black. It has soft feathers under its chin. Goslings resemble adults, but are a duller brown and with less demarcation between the colors of the head and neck, and striping and barring effects are much reduced.

The nene is a herbivore that will either graze or browse, depending on the availability of vegetation. Food items include the leaves, seeds, fruit, and flowers of grasses and shrubs.

The nene population stands at 2,500 birds, making it the world's rarest goose. It is believed that it was once common, with approximately 25,000 Hawaiian geese living in Hawaii when Captain James arrived in 1778. Hunting and introduced predators, such as small Indian mongooses, pigs, and feral cats, reduced the population to 30 birds by 1952. The species breeds well in captivity, and has been successfully re-introduced. In 2004, it was estimated that there were 800 birds in the wild, as well as 1,000 in wildfowl collections and zoos.There is concern about inbreeding due to the small initial population of birds. The nature reserve WWT Slimbridge, in England, was instrumental in the successful breeding of Hawaiian geese in captivity. Under the direction of conservationist Peter Scott, it was bred back from the brink of extinction during the 1950s for later re-introduction into the wild in Hawaii. There are still Hawaiian geese at Slimbridge today. They can now be found in captivity in multiple WWT centerss.

The lady at the gift shop pointed out the laysan albatross.

It was quite windy but the birds enjoyed soaring.

Breathtaking scenery around the wildlife refuge area.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is marked by its towering lighthouse. The ocean cliffs and tall grassy slopes of a dormant volcano provide a protective breeding ground for many Hawaiian seabirds.

Located on the northern most point of the main Hawaiian islands, Kīlauea Point NWR has one of the largest populations of nesting seabirds in the state which makes it the best place for photography and wildlife observation.

Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is located on the northern-most point of the main Hawaiian islands on a portion of the former Kīlauea volcanic vent and includes spectacular views from atop a 180-foot ocean bluff.

The 199-acre Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 and is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to:

  • Protect and enhance migratory seabirds and threatened and endangered species, including the nēnē (Hawaiian goose) and ‘a‘o (Newell’s shearwater) populations and their habitats

  • Preserve and maintain the historical integrity of the area, including the 1913 Kīlauea Lighthouse and lighthouse keepers’ homes, which were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979

  • Conduct interpretation and environmental education activities on Hawaiian wildlife, site history, and the National Wildlife Refuge System

  • Promote fish and wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities and the overall protection of natural resources

  • Conserve native coastal strand, riparian, and aquatic biological diversity

It is also one of the few locations where you can observe the ‘Ā (Red-footed booby), Mōlī (Laysan albatross), ‘Ua ‘u kani (Wedge-tailed shearwater) among other Kaua‘i wildlife in their natural habitat. The coastal front also provides a safe haven for the endangered ‘Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua (Hawaiian monk seal), Honu(Green sea turtle), and Koholā (Humpback whale).

The Refuge is also home to the Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse, whose 2nd order bivalve Fresnel lens lit the way for seafarers. The lighthouse is part of the Kīlauea Point Light Station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse played a key role in the first trans-Pacific flight from the West Coast to Hawaii and has been part of Kaua'i's history since its completion in 1913.

"The lighthouse was built in 1913 as a navigational aid for commercial shipping between Asia and Hawaii.

Daniel K. Inouye

Kı ̄lauea Point Lighthouse

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Seeing a Need and Selecting a Site

At the start of the twentieth century, shipping between Asia and the west coast of the United States mainland increased. The need for a lighthouse to serve as the first landfall seen by eastbound ships became evident.

As the northernmost point in the main Hawaiian Islands and with an elevation of 180 feet, Kı ̄lauea Point was a perfect choice. In 1909, the U.S. Government purchased the 31-acre site from the Kı ̄lauea

Sugar Company for $1.00!

Construction began in July 1912, and the Kı ̄lauea Point Lighthouse was dedicated on May 1, 1913. Local residents joined in the celebration and participated in a lu ̄‘au and shark shoot. Nineteenth Lighthouse District Inspector A.W. Arledge, who was in attendance that day, would later recall:“There is a cliff about 400 feet high about 300 yards south easterly of the tower across which the beam of light rapidly swept. I believe that this is the most beautiful light station I have


Bringing Supplies to the Lighthouse

Since there were no suitable roads or motorized vehicles on Kaua‘i at the time

of construction, all building materials and supplies were brought by sea. The lighthouse tender Kukui serviced the station until roads were used in 1927.The Kukui anchored in the cove west of the Point. From there, smaller boats brought deliveries within reach of a derrick mounted90 feet above sea level on the cliffside; the foundations of which can still be seen today. From a platform near the derrick,

supplies were carried up to the Point on a narrow gauge inclined railway.

Lighthouse Decommissioned

After World War II, RADAR (Radio Detecting And Ranging), LORAN (Long Range Navigation), and other technological advances made the use of lighthouses as navigational aids obsolete. In 1976, while

still operable but no longer used by large ships and planes, the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse. The automated rotating beacon you see today was installed for local boaters and aircraft

Life for early Lighthouse Keepers

The routine demands of the 31-acre station left the Kı ̄lauea Point staff little time for socializing or visiting Kı ̄lauea. The Lighthouse Board provided each keeper and assistant keeper with a 106-page

Instructions to Light-Keepers and Masters of Light Vessels that detailed their duties and the manner in which they would be carried out.

Keepers had to light the lamp at sunset and extinguish it at sunrise. One keeper remained in the watch room throughout the night, or two would split the hours of darkness into two shifts. Those on duty

wound the clockwork mechanism periodically, trimmed the lamp wick as needed, and made a detailed record of the night’s happenings.

During daylight hours, the keepers continued their log keeping while meticulously shining brass in the

lighthouse, polishing the lens, and cleaning lighthouse windows to remove accumulated salt spray. Daytime was also the period for chipping rust and repainting, building and grounds maintenance, and

other tasks such as replenishing fuel supplies.

How far can a lighthouse be seen?

It depends on how high the light stands above sea level. The higher it is, the further

the beam can travel before it’s blocked by the Earth’s curvature. The center of Kı ̄lauea

Point’s light is 217 feet above sea level and could be seen by ships 22 nautical miles at sea.

Kı ̄lauea’s beacon proved to be visible from much further by air when the Bird of Paradise, the

historic first flight from the U.S. mainland to Hawai‘i, overshot the islands in 1927. With the

plane low on fuel, the pilots spotted Kı ̄lauea’s beacon from 90 miles away and turned back to

safety and a heros’ welcome on O‘ahu. They credited the lighthouse with saving their lives.

Many of what are assumed to be native Hawaiian plants are not. Plumeria, bougainvillea, and antherium (to name a few) were all introduced as ornamentals. Native plants have suffered from

destruction of their habitat, grazing by introduced animals, and invasion of nonnative plants. Here at

the refuge, five native plants are being reintroduced.

beach naupaka

Beach naupaka is also known as Hawaiian half-flower. Its distinctive flower makes it easy to identify; however, it can be confused with the native inkberry (Scaevola plumieri), whose flowers look similar. Inkberry has black fruits, and its leaves are stiffer, smaller (to 10 cm long), with a smooth, entire leaf margin. By contrast, the beach naupaka has white fruits and leaves that grow to about 21 cm in length and often have a few shallow indentations along its

broad apex.

The salt-tolerant beach naupaka has been available from nurseries since the 1960s. It was promoted in the 1970s and 1980s for use in beach stabilization projects and coastal landscapes - a practice that continues, but is now discouraged. Beach naupaka escaped cultivation by the early 1980s and now forms dense stands on many beach dunes, coastal rock barrens, coastal strands, along saline shores, including mangroves, and in coastal hammocks.

Hala or pandanus

The Hala Tree is a very important tree to the Hawaiians who used the tree in numerous ways. The tree most likely arrived in Hawai'i on it's own due to the fact that the seeds of the Hala Tree float. The Hala Tree can be found throughout the Pacific.

The Hala Tree is very distinctive looking. Growing up to 20 feet tall each tree has thick aerial roots that spread out into the ground. There are male and female versions of the Hala Tree. The fronds of each have long bent leaves and the female produces an 8 inch pineapple looking fruit in the center of the fronds.

The Hawaiians used the entire tree in a variety of ways. The leaves were woven into hats, mats, and roofing materials. The segments of the fruit were used as paint brushes and for food. Leis have been made with the individual sections of the fruit and the wood of the tree has been used to create water pipes, posts and calabashes. The pollen of the sweet smelling male Hala flower (Hinano) was used to preserve feathers and leis.

Michael and I watched a Netflix show called "The World's Most Amazing Vacation Rentals". On season 1 episode 8 Aloha, Hawaii, they featured the Hale 'Ae Kai on Kilauea. Yes, you can see it from the lighthouse.

"Inarguably, Kauai’s finest estate, this stunning Balinese-inspired Masterpiece is situated on 15+ secluded acres located directly above Secret Beach on Kauai’s North Shore. Hale ‘Ae Kai™ is an operating farm involved in the growth and sale of various palm and coconut trees, citrus trees and other exotic floral plantings. The property is gated and private, with an on-site farm manager. Hale ‘Ae Kai™ boasts spectacular views of the ocean, Secret Beach, Bali Hai and the historic Kilauea Lighthouse. Starting at $14,000- $20,000/Night

The house is comprised of four Balinese-inspired Pavilions. The Central Pavilion is accessed across a 3,500+ square foot pond and features an expansive gourmet kitchen, dining area, living room, office and bedroom with a king-sized bed and bathroom with shower. Each room in the Central Pavilion has ocean view covered lanais with spectacular views of the ocean and the Kilauea Lighthouse. On the ground floor of the Central Pavilion, the house features a media room with a flat screen HD TV."

It is a fascinating show. If you subscribe to Netflix, check out the show.

Michael and I stopped the car numerous times and walked along many different beaches from our hotel to the lighthouse. Walking along the pathways is so much easier than walking on the sand.

Other interesting sites

So many feral chicks!

Beautiful landscape in front of secluded properties.

You can never tell what you may see when you stop at a light.

Always time for refreshments. This is a strawberry, banana, pineapple, guava and ice smoothie. Didn't take a picture of the Dole Whip, though. We picked up some local honey to take home.

Again tonight, I sat at the little table and I wrote the entry while I watched the waves. Our first rainbow.

This is our last night at the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort. Tomorrow we change hotels and go to the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa for "Qumulo's Winners' Club". Michael and I will miss our oceanfront room.

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