Hawaii: Winter 2022–2023

Winter 2022–2023: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Alex Wang (Hawai’i Co)

Jennifer Rothe (Kaua’i Co)

Recommended citation:

Wang, A, and J. Rothe. 2023. Winter 2022–2023: Hawaii. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-fYc> North American Birds.

While the Hawaii Region lacks the drastic seasonal cues experienced elsewhere in much of the ABA area, winter here nonetheless tends to be an eventful time from a birding standpoint. This winter was, in some ways, more eventful than average. A powerful storm system passed through the islands the week before Christmas, knocking down a considerable number of trees in Hakalau Forest NWR, home to nearly all species of extant native forest birds on Hawaiʻi Island. January, by contrast, was uncharacteristically dry, with drought conditions causing many catchment-dependent residences to run out of water. But February roared back with two back-to-back “Kona low” storm systems which drenched the Main Hawaiian Islands.

In keeping with Fall 2022 trends, winter gull numbers remained notably subdued across the Hawaii Region. The southeastern Hawaiian Islands’ second-ever substantiated Wood Sandpiper, first discovered in fall on Hawaiʻi Island, spent the entirety of the winter at Opaeʻula Pond. Hawaiʻi Co. had its first winter reports of Bulwer’s Petrel as well as the first Band-rumped Storm-Petrel fledging event in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes NP to be documented on camera.

The spectacular volcanic eruption at the summit of Mauna Loa that began 27 Nov continued to act as a 13,000-foot glowing beacon in the night. All human eyes were trained on the volcano, but eruptions also have the potential to affect birds as well. The summit lava flow itself briefly threatened a Hawaiian Petrel colony (where flightless chicks were still building the wing strength necessary to fledge from their burrows) as well as kīpukas: islands of old-growth trees spared from historic lava flows that have long provided refuge to endangered native passerines. Kīlauea’s full lava lake as well as Mauna Loa’s fissures churned out ash and vog–toxic volcanic gasses–whose effects were experienced even on Kauaʻi, over 300 miles away. “Pele’s hair,” elongate glass filaments fine enough to draw comparison to hair strands and delicate enough to be carried aloft, can embed themselves into the skin of anything which comes into physical contact with them. The dual eruption was short in duration; by 10 Dec all activity had ceased. However, Kīlauea commenced erupting on 5 Jan and continued through the end of the winter period.

Considering the possible alternatives, in the end the summit eruption caused minimal damage to both birds and human infrastructure. It is clear that the cycle of creation and destruction which created the Hawaiian Islands is still very much alive and well. Native seed-dispersers like the ʻŌmaʻo thrush and seabirds like the Hawaiian Petrel and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel will deposit nutrients from the ocean onto these barren stretches of new rock as they have done since time immemorial.

Geese through Ducks

Kauaʻi’s Snow Goose (resident since 2018) continued in Princeville (m. ob.), but in addition to “Aflac,” two individuals were spotted at Kiahuna Golf Club near Poʻipū 5 Dec26 Feb (Karen Snepp, André Raine). On Maui, two juvenile Snow Geese were reported from Keālia Pond NWR 27 Dec (Jeff Zuckerman). On Hawaiʻi Island, the individual present at Hilo’s Waiākea Pond since October continued throughout the winter period (m. ob.), while a second individual was observed once at the Volcano Golf Course on Christmas Eve (Jack Connelly, Shari Connelly).

A Greater White-fronted Goose was seen foraging in the agricultural fields across from Kaua’i’s Kawaiʻele State Waterbird Sanctuary 21–26 Jan (Katie Temple, Jennifer Rothe, Stephen Rossiter, Adrian Burke, Jaclynn Tolchin, George Cummins, David Hanna, Jeff Joffray, Jenn Joffray). The bird was subsequently re-found in the sanctuary itself 8 Feb (Jeff Joffray, Jenn Joffray), where it remained through 26 Feb (m. ob.). Midway Atoll’s Greater White-fronted Goose continued from fall until at least 16 Feb (Catie Mahon, Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Jonathan Plissner, Nathan Rathburn, Eric VanderWerf, Robby Kohley).

Broadly speaking, Cackling Goose continued at the same locations it had occupied in autumn. One bird was at Kauaʻi’s Kīlauea Point NWR 16 Dec (Steve B., Ivan Phillipsen, Carol Edwards, Diana Ponedel, JoAnn Fujizawa, Tim Thompson, Julia Tully) and 21 Dec (Eileen Ross). On Oʻahu, a single Cackling Goose persisted at Pearl Harbor NWR 3 Dec26 Feb (m. obs.), and James Campbell NWR continued to host a quartet of Cackling geese 3 Dec25 Feb (m. ob.). The species was also reported from Wailea, Maui on 16 Feb (Bette Horishige). On Hawaiʻi Island, the decade-long resident Cackling Goose continued at Kealakehe WTP (m. ob.), but individuals were also reported from elsewhere on island: at Waikōloa Village Golf Club 23 Jan–20 Feb (Lance Tanino, Jenny McKee), at the northernmost tip of the island on 1 Jan (William Hull), and at Hilo’s Liliʻuokalani Gardens on 5 Feb (M. Gaylord).

Originally brought to Ko Olina when the golf course first opened in 1990, Oʻahu’s Black Swans have since reared multiple clutches; recent estimates place the population at around two dozen individuals. While resort staff apparently clip the birds’ wings to discourage wandering, the birds indulge in at least some degree of exploration, including one historical example of an unauthorized field trip to Waikīkī. Byodo-In Temple on the north shore also houses a small group of Black Swans which were a gift from Australia to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park. Individuals on Kauaʻi thus far have not been reported as straying from their Grand Hyatt home in Poʻipū.

A male Garganey was reported 7 Dec at the Smith’s Family Garden ponds on Kauaʻi, but torrential rain precluded the obtaining of a documentation photo before the bird flew away, never to be seen again (Alec Andrus). Four Blue-winged Teal were reported from Maui’s Keālia Pond NWR on 16 Dec (Samuel Murr). Oʻahu’s trio of female Gadwall continued at Pearl Harbor NWR through 26 Feb (Michael Young, Kurt Pohlman, Eric Vanderwerf, Kellen Apuna, Eli Martin, Richard May, Mandy Talpas) and were once observed accompanied by a male in alternate plumage on 2 Jan (Richard May, Peter Donaldson, Ray Born). Elsewhere on Oʻahu, two females–possibly the same—were reported at Nuʻupia Ponds on 30 Jan (Richard May). On Hawaiʻi Island, one Gadwall flushed from Lokowaka Pond (Stephen Rossiter, Jennifer Rothe).

Midway Atoll’s female and immature male Tufted Ducks both continued through 26 Jan (Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Jonathan Plissner, Catie Mahon, Eric VanderWerf, Robby Kohley, Nathan Rathbun), though the presence of a second male on 18 Dec (Jonathan Plissner) suggested three concurrent individuals on the atoll. Only one Tufted Duck was reported 11–19 Feb (Jonathan Plissner, Catie Mahon). Midway’s four Greater Scaup also continued and were observed in various permutations through 16 Jan (Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Jonathan Plissner, Catie Mahon, Eric VanderWerf, Robby Kohley, Nathan Rathbun). Greater Scaup also continued from fall at Hawaiʻi Island’s Kealakehe WTP, with up to four individuals—though typically only one—observed there through 19 Feb (m. ob.). On the Hilo side, three individuals were observed at Waiākea Pond on 4 Jan (Brandy Johnson) and a female was at nearby Lokowaka Pond on 18 Jan (Alex Wang).

This winter was an impressive one for Bufflehead. The two autumn birds at Oʻahu’s Pearl Harbor NWR continued there until 11 Dec (Michael Young, Kurt Polhman, J Joseph, Kristi Streiffert), whereas on the north shore, James Campbell NWR hosted a pair of Buffleheads 3 Dec11 Feb (m. ob.), with a maximum of three individuals observed 11 Dec–14 Jan (Richard May, Reginald David, Eric VanderWerf, Colin Morita, Dick Porter, Peter Donaldson, Bev Davenport, Tanya Smythe, Thomas Smythe, Paul Rodriguez). A female Bufflehead was reported from Maui’s Keālia NWR 22–28 Dec (Jeff Zuckerman, Eric LoPresti). On Hawaiʻi Island, a female Bufflehead was at Lokowaka Pond 3 Dec2 Feb (Jennifer Rothe, Stephen Rossiter, Sherman Wing, Gret Foust, Mandy Talpas, Alex Wang, Lance Tanino, Kat O’Reilly, David Roberts, Kurt Pohlman, Nathan Pieplow, Reginald David, Sam Preer), while a juvenile was reported from nearby Waiākea Pond on 24 Dec (Reginald David). Two birds were also seen on unnamed retention ponds in eastern Kauaʻi on 2 Jan (Adrian Burke, Dilek Sahin, Mike McFarlin).

Game birds through Waterbirds

Two Chukar were spotted on the side of the road near Oʻahu’s Kuoakalā Game Management Area on 28 Dec (Eric VanderWerf). The species is not considered established on the island, and it is thought that these were likely recent hunting-related releases.

Hilo’s Pied-billed Grebe, present at Waiākea Pond since 2015, was regularly observed there throughout the period (m. ob.). Elsewhere on Hawaiʻi Island, individual grebes were observed at Punaluʻu Anchialine Ponds 2728 Dec (Thane Pratt, Sherman Wing, Tanya Smythe, Thomas Smythe) and at Hōkūliʻa Shoreline Park on 15 Dec (Rebecca Dewhirst, John Lynch) and 22 Jan (John Lynch, Susan Bonney).

Mourning Dove is difficult to locate on Kauaʻi, but a pair was observed on Kiko Rd. on 4 Jan (Jennifer Rothe) and 8 Jan (Adrian Burke), and a single dove was spotted from the Hanapēpē Valley Overlook on 18 Feb (Stephen Rossiter). Two Mariana Swiftlets were observed on 15 Feb on ʻAiea Ridge Trail (Daniel George).

The Common Gallinule–Gallinula galeata cachinnans as opposed to the endemic Hawaiian subspecies G. g. sandvicensis–identified on Midway Atoll in fall was seen there again on 14 and 15 Dec following an absence of two weeks (Catie Mahon).


A Black-bellied Plover continued in the vicinity of Hawaiʻi Island’s Keāhole Point 28 Dec23 Feb (Lance Tanino, Sherman Wing, Reginald David, Alex Wang, Thane Pratt, Ellen Schwenne, Jeremiah Oden, Don Coons, Ron Pozzi). An individual was found at Maui’s Keālia Pond NWR on 12 Dec and remained there through 21 Feb (Brian Avent, Scott Reynolds, Jared Benson, Carrie Vaughn, Tyler Doyle, Wendy Swee, Brooks Hart, Carrie Warman). Molokaʻi’s Black-bellied Plover was last observed at Kōheo Wetland on 2 Dec (Tim Ward). The two Black-bellied Plovers which oversummered at Oʻahu’s Nuʻupia Ponds WMA continued at that location through 28 Jan (m. ob.). A high count of three individuals was noted there on 18 Jan (Richard Fischer). A Black-bellied Plover flew into Kauaʻi’s Salt Pond Beach Park on 16 Jan (Alex Wang, Zach Pezzillo, Jennifer Rothe, Stephen Rossiter, Jaclyn Tolchin, George Cummins) but was not observed thereafter despite multiple attempts to relocate the bird.

Maui’s two autumn Semipalmated Plovers were joined by a third individual at Keālia Pond NWR on 30 Jan (Tyler Doyle), and one was also reported from Midway Atoll on 15 Dec (Nathan Rathbun). Strong numbers of Bristle-thighed Curlew overwintered on Oʻahu’s north shore, with up to 40 reported from James Campbell NWR on 16 Nov (Eric VanderWerf). A Whimbrel was reported on 19 Jan and 2 Feb (Gerald McKeating) from Molokaʻi’s Kiowea BP: the same vicinity where an American “Hudsonian” Whimbrel has overwintered annually since 2007.

The Ruff reported from Kauaʻi’s Kawaiʻele SWS on 29 Dec (Adrian Burke) and from within the Pacific Missile Range Facility on 4 Jan (Jennifer Rothe, Stephen Rossiter) was widely thought to be the same individual which was originally found at Pākalā Beach in fall (Benjamin Vizzachero). Hawaiʻi Island’s Ruff continued at Kealakehe WTP and surrounding areas and was well-documented throughout the winter (m. ob.). An apparent second individual was reported from the Hilo side, at Liliʻuokalani Gardens 1521 Feb (Jesse Harrison, Kamal Islam). The Ruff photographed at Kanahā Pond Wildlife Sanctuary on 22 Feb (Zach Pezzillo, Hans-Peter Bieri) was Maui’s first since 2018.

There was a dearth of Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in the Main Hawaiian Islands this winter; the only report was of one individual at Kauaʻi’s Kawaiʻele SWS 624 Dec (Patricia Johnson, Josia Verbrugge, Steve B, Ivan Phillipsen, Lucas Corneliussen, Adrian Burke, Jamie Harmon). Conversely, as many as four individuals were recorded 311 Dec (Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Catie Mahon) on Midway Atoll, which is more closely situated to the species’ flyway between Siberia and Australia.

Dunlin continued throughout the winter at Oʻahu’s Pearl Harbor NWR (Michael Young, Kurt Pohlman, Richard May, Peter Donaldson), with two birds being observed on 7 Jan (Michael Young), 18 Jan (Richard May, Peter Donaldson), and 26 Feb (Michael Young). Two Dunlin were also reported on Maui, at Keālia Pond NWR on 24 Feb (Samuel Kent), and a single bird was seen at Hawaiʻi Island’s Keāhole Point on 5 Jan (Pam Bruns, Ken Smith) and at Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP on 15 Jan (Nathan Pieplow).

Least Sandpiper continued from autumn at Hawaiʻi Island’s Kealakehe WTP 19 Feb (Larry Nigro, Molly Donahue) and at Maui’s Keālia NWR 528 Dec (Brian Avent, Chris Forster, Eric LoPresti), with a high count of three individuals at the latter. Pectoral Sandpiper was somewhat difficult to come by this winter—only three were reported from the entirety of the Hawaii Region: one from Maui’s Keālia Pond NWR on 22 Dec and 16 Jan (Jeff Zuckerman, Patti Schevers), one from Kauaʻi’s Kawaiʻele SWS on 7 Dec (Dilek Sahin), and one from Midway Atoll on 4 Dec (Catie Mahon) and 15 Dec (Jonathan Plissner). Semipalmated Sandpiper was reported at Maui’s Keālia Pond NWR 1 Dec (Samual Murr).

A Wilson’s Snipe flushed from the managed wetlands of Kauaʻi’s Hanalei NWR during the Kapaʻa Christmas Bird Count on 17 Dec (Jennifer Rothe, Stephen Rossiter). Snipe activity continued at the Kiʻi Unit of James Campbell NWR on Oʻahu, with regular encounters spanning 3 Dec to 16 Feb (Casey Ryan, Brittney McGuire, Kim Nelson, Will Wright, Lea Dominici, Tanya Smythe, Thomas Smythe, Peter Donaldson, Richard May, Breck Tyler, Dave Bennett, Sharon Tolby, Mike Green, Colin Morita, Dick Porter, Jeff Adler). An impressive three individuals were observed there on 11 Dec (Richard May, Reginald David). On the south shore of Oʻahu, a Wilson’s Snipe flushed from the edge of Pouhala Marsh on 2 Jan (Peter Donaldson, Richard May).

Kauaʻi’s Spotted Sandpiper continued at Kawaiʻele SWS 2 Dec22 Feb (Doug Cooper, Josiah Verbrugge, Lucas Corneliussen, Adrian Burke, Eric VanderWerf, David Hanna, Jennifer Rothe, Stephen Rossiter, Alex Wang, Alex Chen, Benjamin Vizzachero, Jeff Joffray, Jenn Joffray, Brad Carlson). A banded Gray-tailed Tattler continued at Midway Atoll 3 Dec20 Feb and was at times accompanied by up to two unbanded individuals (Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Catie Mahon, Jonathan Plissner, Eric VanderWerf, Robby Kohley). The Southeastern Hawaiian Islands’ second confirmed Wood Sandpiper continued at Opaeʻula Pond on Hawaiʻi Island 4 Dec28 Feb (Eric VanderWerf, Peter Donaldson, Richard May, Reginald David, Sherman Wing, Lance Tanino, Nathan Pieplow, Alex Wang, Kurt Pohlman, Joe Fischer, Mandy Talpas, Ron Pozzi, Kamal Islam, Don Coons).

Jaegers and Gulls

An 11 Feb pelagic out of Kona, Hawaiʻi Island turned up two light-morph Parasitic Jaegers (Lance Tanino, Brittany Hendricks, Dan Coleman, Decie Coleman, Dan Coons, Jim Sculatti, Joel Thomas, Marilyn Tears, Melisa Pinnow), which actively pursued Sooty Terns right next to the boat.

Laughing Gull numbers were relatively low this winter compared to the large pulses from the last few winters. They were observed sporadically, and only in ones and twos, even on islands which have hosted between seven and ten individuals in recent years. For Hawaiʻi Island, two Laughing Gulls were seen while whale watching off Kona 22 Dec (Sue Consolo-Murphy), one was at Hualālai Golf Course 11 Jan (Heidi Regier), one flew over Queen Kaʻahumanu Hwy in Kona on 12 Jan (Max & Ellen Schwenne), one was spotted in Kailua-Kona town 19 Jan (Bradley Waggoner), one at ʻAimakapā Pond 19 Feb (Ron Pozzi), and one was at Keāhole Point 20 Feb (Terry Pflugrad). On Maui, one was reported at Kanahā Pond on 20 Feb (Eugene Huryn) and 27 Feb (Becca Reeves). On Oʻahu, an individual Laughing Gull was reported three times: once at the Waimea Valley Audubon Center 23 Jan (Antonio Romero), once at the Waikīkī Hilton Hawaiian Village 5 Feb (Iris Schumacher), and once at Koko Crater Botanical Garden 26 Feb (Timothy Hodge). On Kauaʻi, Laughing Gull was first reported at Lydgate Beach Park on 4 Dec (Gillian Crowther & Heather MacKay). Two were later seen at Salt Pond Beach Park 29 Jan (Jean Greenhalgh, Glen Lindeman), followed by one individual at Kawaiʻele SWS 1920 Feb (Brad Carlson, Jeff Joffray, Jenn Joffray, Andre Raine, Benjamin Vizzachero, Adrian Burke).

Ring-billed Gull frequented Kauaʻi’s Pacific Missile Range Facility 30 Dec–25 Jan (Tessa Broholm, Leah Miller, Stephen Rossiter, Jennifer Rothe). A juvenile gull was present on Midway Atoll 10 Jan28 Feb (Catie Mahon, Jonathan Plissner). Consensus leaned towards Slaty-backed Gull but Western Gull was also discussed as a possibility. A first-cycle Glaucous-winged Gull also overwintered at Midway Atoll and was observed multiple times alongside the Slaty-backed Gull between 11 Dec and 28 Feb (Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Catie Mahon). By contrast, in the Southeastern Hawaiian Islands, there were very few reports of Glaucous-winged Gull, and all of them were limited to brief fly-overs: an immature bird was observed over Oʻahu’s Kahe Point BP on 1 Dec (Casey Ryan, Brittney McGuire), two first-winter birds were over Keʻehi Harbor on 4 Jan (Peter Donaldson, Richard May), and an immature bird was seen flying east over Kauaʻi’s Hanapēpē Bay 4 Dec (Adrian Burke).

Four Gray-backed Terns were reported from Oʻahu’s Makapuʻu Point on 14 Dec (Doris Rodriguez). On Hawaiʻi Island, five Least Terns were reported at Kealakehe WTP on 1 Dec (Reginald David), and between one and three persisted 514 Dec (Eric VanderWerf, Mandy Talpas, Pippa Swannell). Nuʻupia Ponds on Oʻahu has hosted an overwintering Caspian Tern almost annually since 2002, and this winter a tern was present from 2 Dec18 Feb (Kevin Silirie, Paul Rodriguez, Kurt Pohlman, Richard May, Peter Donaldson, Mandy Talpas, Jacob Roalef, Walter Knausenberger, Janice Knausenberger, Bruce Dugger, Richard Fischer, Alexander Christensen).


Red-billed Tropicbird has been observed annually in the vicinity of Oʻahu’s Koko Crater since 2018 and sporadically prior to then. This winter, one bird was present 1 Jan23 Feb, and two concurrent individuals were seen a handful of times (Eric VanderWerf, Kellen Apuna, Walter Oshiro, Joshua Driscoll, Kurt Pohlman, Mandy Talpas, Richard May, Michael Young, Mike Green, Eric Kershner, Jennifer Urmston, Ally Tiryakioglu, Eli Martin, Jeremiah Oden, Daniel George, Abby Persoon, Michael Figari, Hankyu Kim, Minsu Jeon).

While Laysan Albatross are fairly common on Kauaʻi and increasingly so on Oʻahu, sightings in Maui and Hawaiʻi Co. are still quite limited. Exceptional sightings near Hawaiʻi Island this winter included an individual seen flying overland at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park on 31 Jan (Ken Chamberlain), one seen during a Kona pelagic boat tour on 7 Feb (Janice Knausenberger, Walter Knausenberger, Pippa Swannell, Reginald David, Jeff Rusnow, Jacob Roalef, Mandy Talpas), and one filmed from a seawatch at Keāhole Point on 9 Feb (Lance Tanino, Jeremiah Oden).

Midway’s famed Short-tailed Albatross pair, “George” and “Geraldine,” returned to the island in autumn to engage in another nesting attempt. They were observed regularly through the winter (Neil Fried, Nathan Rathbun, Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Jonathan Plissner, Eric VanderWerf, Robby Kohley) and experienced an eventful holiday season. The pair’s 2019 chick—now a subadult—returned to Midway on 3 Dec, their current chick hatched on Christmas Day, and their 2020 chick was spotted on 16 Jan (Jon Plissner, Eric VanderWerf, Robby Kohley). A separate subadult female Short-tailed Albatross, dubbed “Phoebe,” was first seen inhabiting the ironwood trees on Midway 19 Nov (Sarah Youngren, Nattapon Songserm) and continued throughout the winter, exhibiting no sign of knowing about its conspecifics on island, less than a mile away (Jonathan Plissner). Auspiciously, there were six Short-tailed Albatross concurrently on Midway this winter which is a promising sign for their population recovery (Jonathan Plissner).

Leach’s Storm-Petrel was encountered twice on a 7 Feb pelagic out of Kona, Hawaiʻi Island (Mandy Talpas, Jacob Roalef, Jeff Rusinow, Reginald David, Pippa Swannell, Walter Knausenberger, Janice Knausenberger). An endemic population of Band-rumped Storm-Petrel breeds in the Hawaiian Islands, but the species exhibits cryptic life history traits and has a penchant for nesting on inaccessible cliff faces in much of the archipelago. However, a handful of burrows have been discovered in high-elevation lava fields on Hawaiʻi Island with the aid of a specially trained Hawaiʻi Detector Dogs team. Game camera footage was released in early Dec of a downy fledgling departing its burrow in Oct, marking the first documented fledging of a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel from within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes NP (Charlotte Forbes-Perry, UH Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit and NPS).

White-necked Petrel was reported west of Hawaiʻi Island on 22 Dec (Jules Wyman). Pelagic tours out of Kona, Hawaiʻi Island on 7 Feb (Mandy Talpas, Jeff Rusinow, Reginald David, Pippa Swannell, Walter Knausenberger) and 13 Feb (Mandy Talpas, Pippa Swannell, Reginald David, Ivan Phillipsen, Diana Ponedel, JoAnn Fujizawa, Tim Thompson, Julia Tully) turned up one Black-winged Petrel each.

While Bulwer’s Petrel breeds on a number of offshore islets in the Main Hawaiian Islands, previous winter records number in the single digits, collectively. This winter, however, saw a startling number of reports off the Kona Coast of Hawaiʻi Island: a 13 Dec pelagic reported a total of three individuals over two different lists (Mandy Talpas, Pippa Swannell, Steve B., Reginald David, Ivan Phillipsen, Diana Ponedel, JoAnn Fujizawa, Tim Thompson, Julia Tully). Another individual was reported 22 Dec (Jules Wyman). A 7 Feb pelagic also encountered a total of three birds, again over two checklists (Mandy Talpas, Reginald David, Jacob Roalef, Jeff Rusinow, Walter Knausenberger, Janice Knausenberger). One final Bulwer’s Petrel was reported on the 11 Feb pelagic (Lance Tanino, Decie Coleman, Joel Thomas, Brittany Hendricks, Melisa Pinnow, Dan Coleman, Marilyn Tears, Don Coons).

A Short-tailed Shearwater was encountered on a 13 Dec pelagic out of Kona, Hawaiʻi Island, along with three Sooty Shearwaters (Mandy Talpas, Julia Tully, Diana Ponedel, Ivan Phillipsen, JoAnn Fujizawa, Pippa Swannell, Reginald David, Tim Thompson, Steve B). The two species are notoriously difficult to differentiate in the field and short-taileds may easily be obscured by pulses of sooties migrating through the Hawaiian Islands. Sooty Shearwater was also reported in the same area on 31 Dec (Lance Tanino, Greg Bilsland, Yousif Attia, Thomas Smythe, Tanya Smythe, Lee Gregory), and on Kauaʻi, twenty-one were reported from Kīlauea Point NWR on 4 Dec (Kyle Kittelberger, Michael Mathieson).

Masked Booby is infrequently observed in Maui Co. However, a lone bird was reported from Kawākiu Beach on Molokaʻi on 6 Feb (Elaine Thomas) and at sea between Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe on 18 Feb (Brooks Hart), though neither report was accompanied by further documentation.

Herons, Kingfishers, and Raptors

A Snowy Egret was discovered 26 Dec at Honuʻapo along the southern tip of Hawaiʻi Island (David Roberts), where it remained until 28 Dec (Thane Pratt, Sherman Wing, Lance Tanino, Reginald David, Thomas Smythe, Tanya Smythe). The bird was refound the following day at ʻAimakapā Pond (Brandy Johnson) and continued at various nearby locations along the Kona Coast through 27 Feb (m. ob.).

Kauaʻi’s Hanalei NWR hosted one White-faced Ibis 1 Dec–26 Feb (Sheri Whitfield, Becky Bateman, Jennifer Rothe, Stephen Rossiter, Gautam Apte, Will Babb, Doug Whitman, Jeff Joffray, Jenn Joffray, Brad Carlson, Erik Bruhnke, Brennan Mulrooney, Kenneth Cohen, Allan Sgroi). Up to 10 were observed at Oʻahu’s Pearl Harbor NWR between 8 Dec and 26 Feb (Morton Massey, Michael Young, Kurt Pohlman, Alexander Christensen, Paul Rodriguez, Eric VanderWerf, Richard May, Ray Born, Peter Donaldson, Wes Carrington, Janice Fair, Kellen Apuna, Tim Waters, Eli Martin, Mandy Talpas). One ibis was also reported to the southwest, at Aulani Disney Resort and Spa on 12 Jan (Joshua Driscoll). Maui also had one ibis at Kanahā Pond Wildlife Sanctuary 13 Jan–28 Feb (Adrian Burke, Lisa Viviano, Julia Dolan, Ann Stockert, Robert Henderson, Shawn Hardy, Ameeta Cordell, Eugene Huryn, Zach Pezzillo, Hans-Peter Bieri, Jeff Zuckerman, Andrew Kerr, Becca Reeves, Jamie Claus, Marna Ford). On Hawaiʻi Island, several ibis were present the entirety of the winter period at Kealakehe WTP (m. ob.), with a high count of five on 5 Jan (Nathan Pieplow). Nearby Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP hosted similar numbers—and potentially the same individuals (m. ob.).

Autumn’s elevated level of Osprey activity continued into winter. An Osprey was photographed above Hawaiʻi Island’s Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP on 27 Dec (Soren Bentzen). On Molokaʻi, an Osprey was reported from Kōheo Wetland on 17 Dec (Jean Eaton) and in the vicinity of the Kalokoʻeli Fishpond 23 Jan5 Feb (Gerald McKeating). Most Maui sightings were concentrated along the coast, at Kanahā Pond Wildlife Sanctuary on 9 Feb (Barb Rask) and in the vicinity of Keālia Pond NWR 12 Dec21 Feb (Samantha Bryant, Eric LoPresti, Becky Newman, James Longley, Alan Westphal, Ann Stockert, Bob Wells, Wendy Swee, Eugene Huryn). However, there were two upcountry observations: one at Baldwin Avenue near Makawao on 26 Dec (Christopher Warren) and one the following day above Olinda at 2700 feet in elevation (Forest Starr, Kim Starr).

Oʻahu’s Northern Harrier continued at James Campbell NWR 3 Dec25 Feb (Kim Nelson, Will Wright, Brittney McGuire, Casey Ryan, Peter Donaldson, Richard May, Colin Morita, Michael Young, Mandy Talpas, Breck Tyler, Dave Bennett, Sharon Tolby, Eric VanderWerf, Dick Porter, Ben Hoffman, Luke Hoffman, Tom Crusse, Larry Nigro) and was also observed at nearby Kawela Bay 9 Dec (Breck Tyler), 20 Dec (Christine Tarski), and 23 Jan (Shaka Kukakuka).

Belted Kingfisher continued at Hawaiʻi Island’s Kaloko-Honokōhau NHP 27 Dec through 20 Feb (Soren Bentzen, Pippa Swannell, Kurt Pohlman, Lance Tanino, Lee Gregory, Richard May, Peter Donaldson, Sherman Wing, Benton Kellogg, Michael Carion, Nicole Carion). A kingfisher was also sporadically reported from Pearl Harbor NWR along the south shore of Oʻahu 7 Jan26 Feb (Tim Waters, Paul Rodriguez, Michael Young, Richard May, Peter Donaldson, Mandy Talpas, Paul Radley, Kurt Pohlman, Eli Martin).

Midway’s Peregrine Falcon continued with sporadic sightings across the main island through 21 Feb (Bob Arrigoni, Bettina Arrigoni, Neil Fried, Jonathan Plissner, Catie Mahon). In the Southeastern Hawaiian Islands, a peregrine was sighted again at Hawaiʻi Island’s Volcanoes NP on Christmas Day (Be Tee). On Maui, a falcon was perched at Kanahā Pond Wildlife Sanctuary 13 Jan (Kimberlie Moutoux, Cheryl Wood) and a juvenile was observed circling and calling above a western Maui ridge at around 3400 feet in elevation on 18 Jan (Zach Pezzillo). On Kauaʻi, there were Peregrine Falcon sightings near Kawaiʻele SWS on 6 Dec (Sara Schwendimann), 14 Dec (Eric VanderWerf), and 18 Dec (Steve B., Ivan Phillipsen). Possibly the same individual was observed bolting over the Kalalau Valley on 21 Dec (Lucas Corneliussen). In recent years, Oʻahu peregrine activity has centered around Waikīkī. While a bird was observed at Kalia Tower several times 1626 Dec (Michael Walther, Josia Verbrugge) and then again on 4 Feb (Michael Walther), interim sightings were scattered farther afield. Peregrine Falcon was also reported from Hanauma Bay on 28 Dec (Hiroki Nakagawa) and Diamond Head on 24 Feb (Paul Rettig). The bird also apparently took issue with a drone being flown over Kāneʻohe Bay on the north shore on 21 Jan (Harry Sprague).

Parrots and Passerines

There were several reports of Tanimbar Corella on Hawaiʻi Island, all in the vicinity of the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary: one bird on 14 Dec (Sherman Wing), three instances of between two and six birds on 22 Dec (Lance Tanino), and one on 5 Feb (Reginald David, Richard May). On Oʻahu, one White Cockatoo was reported at Lyon Arboretum on 5 Dec (Scott Reynolds) and two on 26 Feb (Matthew Puzzo). Many of these birds are currently thought to be hybrids, though given the elongated longevity of psittacids, it is possible that some members of the original population remain.

ʻAkikiki, Kauaʻi’s (and indeed the Hawaiian Islands’) most critically imperiled species, was reported a number of times from its final stronghold in the ʻAlakaʻi Wilderness Preserve. Two unbanded adults were encountered on 3 Dec (Kyle Kittelberger) and on 10 Dec, when they were also in the company of a banded adult (left black over black, right blue) feeding an unbanded juvenile (Adrian Burke, Grigory Heaton, James Bailey). An adult and juvenile were seen together on 20 Dec (Josia Verbrugge), followed by two juveniles—all unbanded—on 22 Dec (Lucas Corneliussen). One individual was heard in the area on Christmas Eve (Matt Dufort). New Year’s Day began with a report of one unbanded juvenile (Adrian Burke). “Bucket,” an adult named for its double orange band combination, was seen with a second unbanded adult, presumably its mate, on 1415 Jan (Alex Wang, Jennifer Rothe, Zach Pezzillo, Laura Berthold). Three individuals were reported on 18 Jan (George Cummins, Jaclyn Tolchin) and 22 Jan (Gautam Apte, Doug Whitman, Will Babb). Efforts began in Jan to capture the few remaining adults which have thus far avoided succumbing to mosquito-borne avian malaria to bolster captive-breeding efforts.

Palila continued to trend downward in overall population. The fall census conducted by the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife observed the lowest numbers ever recorded, sadly a recurring result. That being said, this winter a fair number of birders were able to observe the species back at the old hotspot at the Palila Discovery Trail (m. ob.). Prior to 2021, Palila were always reliably found at this hotspot, but in the last two years it has been very hit-or-miss and seems to vary seasonally with long droughts of few-to-no detections.

There was a single report of Maui’s most endangered honeycreeper, the Kiwikiu, this winter. One bird, though possibly two, were heard singing during the Nature Conservancy’s hike on 10 Dec (Sarah Naone, Kyle Kittelberger). On Kauaʻi, individual ʻAkekeʻe were reported from ʻAlakaʻi Plateau on 10 Dec (Adrian Burke, Grigory Heaton, James Bailey), 22 Dec (Lucas Corneliussen), 24 Dec (Matt Dufort), 26 Dec (Steve B), 1 Jan (Adrian Burke), 1415 Jan (Alex Wang, Jennifer Rothe, Zachary Pezzillo, Laura Berthold), and 18 Jan (Jaclyn Tolchin, George Cummins). An adult male was seen accompanied by a duller bird on 22 Jan (Gautam Apte, Doug Whitman, Will Babb).

This winter continued the trend of increasing Saffron Finch presence on Maui. As in previous years, reports centered around Kīhei but stretched along the south shore from Keālia NWR to Maluaka Beach (m. ob.). There were also a number of reports from farther afield. A female was seen at Kapalua on Maui’s western lobe on 20 Feb (Brooks Hart) and on the same day, four individuals were reported at the far eastern tip, in Hana (Charles Stebbins). Upcountry reports included one individual at Keokea Ranch Estate 18 Feb (Candice Cosler), one in Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area on 21 Feb (Alan Barnes), and a male and female at Kula Botanical Gardens on 25 Feb (Kristen Horton). Kula is where the species was first reported on Maui in Feb 2010 (Pyle & Pyle 2017), and it appears they are well on the way to becoming fully established on the island.

Pyle, R. L., and P. Pyle. 2017. The Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and Status. B. P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI, U.S.A. Version 2 (1 January 2017). http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/birds/rlp-monograph

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 21 Aug 2023.

Photos–Hawaii: Winter 2022–2023

While there are a couple dozen historical records of Greater White-fronted Goose in Kauaʻi County, Hawaii, this individual photographed near Kawaiʻele State Waterbird Sanctuary on 22 Feb 2023 was the first ever eBirded in the county. Photo © Brad Ca

The overwintering distribution of Bristle-thighed Curlew in the Hawaiian Islands is patchy. This individual, photographed at James Campbell NWR on 11 Dec 2022, was one of up to 40 observed at the site over the winter. Photo © Reginald David.

Autumn’s Ruff continued at Hawaiʻi Island’s Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant throughout the winter. The obliging shorebird proved to be particularly photogenic on 1 Dec 2022. Photo © Reginald David.

The Southeastern Hawaiian Islands’ second recorded Wood Sandpiper persisted at Opaeʻula Pond, Hawaiʻi Co., through the close of the winter season. 01 Feb 2023. Photo © Lance Tanino.

This Parasitic Jaeger, one of two light morphs observed during a 11 Feb 2023 pelagic out of Kona, Hawaiʻi Island, is seen here in hot pursuit of a Sooty Tern right next to the boat. Photo © Brittany Hendricks.

A Band-rumped Storm-Petrel chick fledged from its burrow inside a feral-cat-proof exclusionary fence within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Its burrow was the fourth-ever confirmed within the state and the first for the park. The Hawaiʻi endemic subspecies of Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Hydrobates castro cryptoleucura) is the only population for this widely distributed species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. 06 Dec 2022. Photo © Charlotte Forbes-Perry, UH Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit and NPS.

Short-tailed Shearwater, here seen off the Kona Coast of Hawaiʻi Island, is rarely observed in the Hawaii Region but true numbers are likely obscured due to their striking similarity to the more common Sooty Shearwater. 13 Dec 2022. Photo © Mandy Talpas.

A Snowy Egret was discovered at Hawaiʻi Island’s Honuʻapo on 26 Dec and proceeded to spend the remainder of winter in the vicinity of Kailua-Kona. 27 Dec 2022. Photo © Sherman Wing.