The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands focuses on restoring seabird breeding populations, enhancing coastal ecosystems, monitoring and research, and environmental education. It opened back in 1985 offering breathtaking views of the Pacific ocean, wildlife, and the historic Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse. The historic lighthouse picture below was taken by my grandmother back in 1982. A visitor center was completed in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2013 that restoration of the lighthouse was complete. The lighthouse has not been in operation since 1976 and now available for tour. You can read more about the history here.
The Koa’e’ula (Red-tailed tropicbird) was definitely the most vocal of the birds that I observed and are easy to spot with their long red tail streamer that can grow up to 35 cm in length and may serve ornamental uses. They nest year round at Kilauea Point and with the help of increased protection, Hawaiian populations have expanded since the 1950’s. It is now estimated that there are 13,000 breeding pairs in the Northwestern Chain of the Hawaiian Islands.
The ‘Iwa (Great frigatebird) does not nest in the area but roosts near Kilauea Point. The word ‘iwa translates to “thief,” and is rightly named because they are known to steal from other birds. With a wingspan of 7 feet, they are amazing to watch in the air. They cannot land in water so they spend most of their time flying. Great frigatebird populations in Hawaii are stable or increasing but are in decline elsewhere due to heavy persecution for human food sources, not enough prevention of poaching and hunting, introduced predators, and habitat degradation.
The Red-footed Booby seen at Kilauea Point is a white color morph. A brown morph also exists, but the white morphs greatly outnumber them. Kilauea Point is the only colony on Kauai and are present year round. Interestingly, red-footed boobies are often found with other flocks of birds hunting tuna and other predatory fish, helping local fishermen find good fishing grounds. According to the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, populations are stable or increasing with the help of officially protected areas.
Other birds you may see at the refuge include white-tailed tropicbirds, wedge-tailed shearwaters, Laysan albatross, brown booby, black-footed albatross, Hawaiian goose, Pacific golden plover, wandering tattler, Newell’s shearwater, and the ruddy turnstone. Marine mammals including whales, turtles, and monk seals may also brighten your day here.