Wildlife in Hawaii

Welcome to Wildlife in Hawaii!

Hawaii is a worldwide beach destination which is renowned for amazing beaches with warm waters, and beautiful mountain ranges.

The wildlife of Hawaii can be as mysterious as it is beautiful, and this blog is going to give you some insight into Hawaii’s hidden treasures!

Use the below headings to guide you through the blog, or otherwise enjoy this blog in it’s entirety!

Hawaii Island Animals Around the Globe

Dolphins

Hawaiian Hoary Bat

Hawaiian Monk Seal And Northern Elephant Seal

The Indian mongoose

Axis Deer And Mule Deer 

Feral Wallaby 

Hawksbill Sea Turtle 

Seabirds Of Hawaii 

Dolphins in Hawaii

dolphin near the coastline

Spinner Dolphins

Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) are the species most commonly enjoyed by visitors because they frequent regular near shore areas during the daytime to rest after nocturnal foraging in deeper water for food.

This small, long-beaked dolphin can “spin” or revolve around its longitudinal axis as many as six times on one leap out of the water. They are found in resident pods around all of the main islands, resting in shallow bays in the day and hunting at night for small schooling fish.

Spotted Dolphins

Spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuataare) easily confused with spinners; they are closely related and look very similar. However, the end of the rostrum or “beak” is white-tipped and mature animals have a spotted color pattern on the body. Spotted dolphins are usually seen in the channels between the islands and do not rest near shore.

Both spotted and spinner dolphins travel in schools from small numbers up to hundreds, and they are the two species caught in tuna nets in the eastern Pacific.

Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are distinguishable from spotted and spinner dolphins by their much larger size, their uniformly gray coloration and their thicker, blunter rostrum.

They are usually seen in smaller pods or groups of less than 10 individuals. Intelligent and high up on the oceanic food chain, dolphins are found to engage in playful activities including bow riding where they surf in front of a boat or even a whale’s bow wave.

Hawaiian Hoary Bat – Hawaii’s only Native Land Mammal

Under the cover of night a skilled hunter twists and turns in the Hawaiian sky, darting and dodging trees with acrobatic skill to catch dinner.  Little is known about this hunter: scientists don’t have an estimate of its population size, and outside of the scientific community, few people even realize that Native Hawaiian bats exist.

Prior to the arrival of humans, other species traveled to Hawai‘i one of three ways: on the wind, via water, or by wing (either flying here themselves or being carried by a winged creature). It follows that the only native land mammal would bear wings.

bat in germany

Ōpe‘ape‘a is a subspecies of the North American hoary bat. Found only in Hawaii , it’s listed as a federally endangered species. Its Hawaiian name means “half-leaf,” and refers to the bat’s open wing, which resembles the bottom half of a taro leaf.

Ōpe‘ape‘a are more common than most people realize, but researchers have only recently begun to study this species more closely. Genetic evidence indicates that bats colonized the Hawaiian Islands in the not-too-distant past—first arriving approximately 10,000 years ago with a second colonization as late as 800 years ago.

Like all bats, ōpe‘ape‘a are nocturnal but you won’t find them roosting in caves. These bats are solitary tree roosters, attaching themselves to the tips of branches on a tall tree.  Weighing in at only ½ oz, these little acrobats are hard to find and even harder to study. Mist nets, the kind used to catch and study songbirds, are not very effective when catching bats, as the tiny mammal quickly learns to avoid the net. Beautiful Wildlife in Hawaii.

The most effective way to detect ‘ōpe‘ape‘a is with ultrasonic bat detectors that pick up the bats’ vocalizations as they travel and hunt. Recent improvements in ultrasonic detection technology have made bats easier to study, and researchers in Hawai‘i  are working to find out more about these mysterious mammals.

On Hawai‘i Island, researchers detected ‘ōpe‘ape‘a more frequently during the summer at lower elevations, possibly because food is abundant during the summer at lower elevations or because the warmer temperatures mean less stress for newborns and lactating mothers. Mother ‘ōpe‘ape‘a  give birth to pups, typically one set of twins, in May or June and stay with the pups until they are 6-7 weeks old.

When the pups are young, the mother will carry them with her on her nightly hunts. When they are old enough to hold on to the roosting site themselves, she will leave them safe in the tree until they are old enough to fly with her and learn to hunt. ‘Ōpe‘ape‘a’s diet is mostly moths, but includes mosquitoes, beetles, crickets, and termites.

When temperatures began to cool, researchers on Hawai‘i  Island found increased bat activity at higher elevations. Whether that means they “migrate” up and down the mountain is still uncertain. Even movement between islands is unknown, but bats are on all the main Hawaiian Islands so inter-island movement occurred at some time in the past.

On Maui, researchers know ‘ōpe‘ape‘a are in Haleakalā National Park, both at the summit and in the crater. The flying insectivores are often spotted at sea level as well. There is a good chance they are in your neighbourhood.

Look for bats at twilight, particularly along pasture edges pastures and clearings. Bats dart back and forth as they catch insects, whereas the rare birds returning to roost take a direct path.

The threats to ‘ōpe‘ape‘a not yet clear but one cause of death is collisions with man-made objects such as communication towers, wind turbines, and barbed wire. This may happen as the bats catch an insect and “turn off” their echolocation for a few seconds to eat.

You can help protect this endangered species. If you know you have ‘ōpe‘ape‘a in your area, protect roosting sites–don’t cut tall trees until after the summer pupping season. 

If you are installing a fence in a pasture, consider using barbless wire on the top strand to prevent snagging a hunting bat. If you find a dead bat on Maui, contact Fern Duvall, Wildlife Biologist with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, at 873-3502. You can help scientists learn more about the genetics and habits of this cryptic creature—far more spectacular than spooky.

Hawaiian Monk Seal And Northern Elephant Seal

Two pesky juvenile sealions

The rarest seal species on Earth, with only about a few hundred remaining, the endemic Hawaiian monk seal is found only in Hawaii. If one is lucky, one might spot this seal basking in the Hawaiian sun on a beach in Hawaii.

Visitors are requested to respect the privacy of these creatures and not disturb them or approach too close (maintain a minimum distance of 45 meters) to them on the beach. These seals come to the shore for basking, resting, or giving birth. Seal pups are particularly vulnerable and therefore must not be disturbed at any cost.

These Hawaiian monk seals are also susceptible to canine pathogens and hence pets must not be allowed to interact with these species.The northern elephant seal is named so for its relatively large size and the proboscis of the males of this species using which they make loud, roaring noises. Unlike the Hawaiian monk seal, the northern elephant seal has a more widespread distribution and is not immediately threatened.

The Indian Mongoose

Mongoose

The Indian mongoose is a non-native species in Hawaii. It was introduced to the archipelago in 1883 from India to control the rat population in the sugar plantations of Hawaii. The mongoose population soon grew rapidly and today is widespread across Hawaii. They are weasel-like creatures with a length of about 26 inches, a tail as long as its brownish body, a pointed nose, and rounded ears.

The introduction of the mongoose to Hawaii was a big mistake since the animal heavily predated on the ground-nesting birds, bird hatchlings, eggs, and endangered turtles of the island. Large populations of the Hawaiian crow, Hawaiian goose, and other endemic birds of the archipelago have been lost due to predation by the Indian mongoose.

Axis Deer And Mule Deer 

Axis

The axis deer or chital, native to the Indian subcontinent, are well-known for their spotted coat, docile nature, and graceful gait. This deer species has always been in high demand in countries across the world.

Though not native to Hawaii, this species also finds its place in our list of “What Animals Live In Hawaii?” This deer was first introduced in Hawaii when Hong Kong gifted one to King Kamehameha V, the ruler of the Kingdom of Hawaii (1863 to 1872). Today, the Hawaiian island of Lanai houses a large population of the axis deer.  That really makes wildlife in Hawaii so special!

A deer species indigenous to western parts of North America, the mule deer was introduced to the Kauai Island of Hawaii by humans. Today, a significant population of this deer species also exist in Hawaii.

Feral Wallaby 

Wallaby

Wallabies were introduced in Hawaii by humans.

Wallabies are small to mid-sized macropods that are native to New Guinea and Australia. In Hawaii, humans introduced these wallabies as exhibits in a Hawaiian zoo.

In 1916, a small population of brush-tailed rock-wallaby managed to escape the zoo. As these animals bred outside in the wild, a feral population of these creatures was established. Today, these wild wallabies can be found in Oahu Island’s Kalihi Valley. These animals are classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle 

Turtle looking to the camera, followed by some silver fish

A hawksbill sea turtle swimming among the corals in the sea off the Hawaiian coast.

Hawaii is the home of the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtle. Hawksbill seat turtles prefer to feast on sea sponges and can often be found in coral reefs. However, the hawksbill sea turtle moves around a lot, often changing its location within the ocean. Unfortunately, these turtles have been relentlessly targeted for their decorative shells and are now a critically endangered species.  Awesome to see this wildlife in hawaii.

Hawksbill turtles are currently classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN (the global authority on the status of the natural world). Alongside Kemp’s Ridley’s, they are believed to be the most endangered of the seven species of sea turtle, with only approximately 8,000 nesting females left globally.

Hawaiian Black Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticoras) or Auku’u perched on a lava rock in the Pacific ocean off the coast of Hawaii as it hunts for fish. How awesome is the Wildlife in Hawaii?

Seabirds of Hawaii

Albatros

Speaking of “What Animals Live In Hawaii?” we definitely need to mention the unique sea and of this Archipelago. Hawaii was once the epicenter of endemism with about 113 endemic bird species. However, today the birds of Hawaii are the most threatened species of birds of the entire planet. Since the arrival of humans, the archipelago has lost 71 bird species, 48 before, and 23 after the arrival of the Europeans.

Hawaiian birds may be classified as sea birds and forest birds depending on the habitat of these avians. Laysan albatross, great frigate birds, noddies, shearwaters, red and white-tailed tropic birds are some of the seabirds of Hawaii.

Summary on Wildlife in Hawaii

I hope this you have enjoyed this blog and have learnt a thing or two about Wildlife in Hawaii! There is so much to discover beyond the beautiful mountains and beaches. If you enjoyed this blog then you may be interested in blogs about Swimming with seals or a blog about Sea Snakes .

We are sure you’re keen on adventuring in Hawaii after reading that blog! If you are wanting to go diving with dolphins take a look at

Dolphin Excursions