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Hawaii Sea Birds

Pelagic seabirds are quite amazing, with their long, thin wings that allow them to fly for days and even weeks at a time without stopping. They have special glands that extract salt from their bodies, allowing them to drink saltwater and ingest salt water through their oceanic prey without building up toxic amounts in their systems. Pelagic birds rest on the surface of the water occasionally, but incredibly, spend most of their lives in the air, commonly only stopping on land to nest and breed.

The Hawaiian Islands (and particularly the Northwest Hawaiian Islands) provide a critically important habitat to millions of migratory and nesting Pacific pelagic seabirds. In 1909, Teddy Roosevelt had the foresight to designate the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which extends about 800 miles northwest of Kauai and provides a safe habitat for seabirds, as well as green sea turtles, monk seals, and many fish and plant species. Lehua Crater (one of the islands we visit on our Niihau + Napali Super Tour) is one of Hawaii’s most important designated seabird sanctuaries, due to its size, height above water and lack of predators.

kauai bird watching tour

In general, hardy pelagic seabirds live longer, breed later, and invest more time into fewer young than their cousins on land. They nest in colonies that can range from dozens to millions of birds. Many species are famous for undertaking long annual migrations, crossing the equator, and even circumnavigating the Earth.

Seabird species you’re likely to see on our Kauai boat tours and Niihau boat tours include albatross, boobie birds, frigate birds, shearwaters, petrels, tropicbirds, and tern. Two species are endemic to Hawaii and listed on the Endangered Species List: the dark-rumped petrel and the Newell’s shearwater.

Bring your binocs and happy birding!