Hawaiian waterbirds live in coastal plain wetland ecosystems ranging from managed Indigenous agricultural lands, to alkaline ponds. Our waterbirds face many threats, including habitat loss and degradation, predation by invasive species, disease, and threats from climate change. Four of our native waterbirds are federally listed as endangered. To protect waterbirds, we conduct research through varied Hawaiian wetland habitats and use these observations to recommend land management strategies to enhance native waterbird populations. Meet our waterbirds below.
Himantopus mexicanus knudseni
Ae'o (Hawaiian Stilt) inhabit wetlands across all of the major Hawaiian Islands, with the exception of Kaho‘olawe. Ae‘o are a slender wading bird that grow up to 15 inches in length. They have a black and white forehead and a white underside; females typically have a bit of brown on their backs while males are glossy black. They have very long pink legs and a long black bill. Ae'o are commonly found in shallow marshes and mudflats, but may frequent large fields, drainage ditches, and shorelines. They lay 3-4 eggs, and ae'o chicks can feed themselves hours after hatching. Federally listed as endangered. State recognized as native.
'Alae ke'o ke'o (Hawaiian Coot) are found on all main Hawaiian Islands, except for Kaho‘olawe. Adult males and females have a black head, a slate gray body with white undertail feathers, and a prominent white frontal shield and bill. Their feet are lobed rather than webbed and are greenish-gray. This species is somewhat gregarious and uses freshwater and brackish wetlands, including agricultural (e.g., taro fields) wetlands and aquaculture ponds. Nesting occurs year round, but most activity occurs between March and September. Federally listed as endangered. Endemic to Hawai'i.
'Alae 'ula (Hawaiian Gallinule) are found on the islands of O'ahu and Kaua'i. Adult males and females are black above and dark slate blue below, with a white stripe on their flanks, and a prominent red shield over their red and yellow bill. Their feet are lobed rather than webbed, and males are larger than females. They use a variety of freshwater habitats and can be somewhat secretive, although they are often seen swimming across open water. 'Alae 'ula lay five to six eggs. Federally listed as endangered. State recognized as native.
Koloa maoli are distributed across the main Hawaiian islands excluding Lanai. Koloa maoli (Hawaiian Duck) are similar to the mallard duck and have been known to hybridize with the domestic mallard, native populations are decreasing as hybridization increases. Koloa Maoli are non-migratory. Males and females are generally a mottled brown, similar to a female mallard, with orange legs. The adult male has a darker head and neck feathers with an olive green bill, while the females have a dull orange or grey bill. Federally recognized as endangered. Endemic to Hawai'i.