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13 Winter Birds That Show Why Hawaii is a Must-Visit Destination for Birders

Winter in Hawaii brings with it a unique opportunity to witness a breathtaking display of avian beauty.

While many associate the Aloha State with its warm sandy beaches and lush tropical landscapes, it is easy to overlook the incredible diversity of winter birds that call this paradise home for a few months each year.

These migratory species traverse immense distances to escape the harsh winter conditions elsewhere and seek refuge in the favorable climates of Hawaii.

From stunning seabirds to dazzling waterfowl and thrilling songbirds, Hawaii’s winter bird population enchants both seasoned birdwatchers and casual observers alike.

In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of winter birds in Hawaii, exploring their unique behaviors, habitats, and the conservation efforts that ensure their continued presence in this tropical haven.

Prepare to be mesmerized by the colorful plumages, melodious calls, and captivating behaviors of these feathered visitors during the winter months in Hawaii.

1. Pacific Golden Plover

Pacific Golden Plover

The Pacific golden plover is a type of bird that travels long distances during different times of the year. It is a shorebird, meaning it is commonly found near the coast. This bird breeds or reproduces during the summers in two specific regions – Alaska and Siberia.

During the breeding season, the Pacific golden plover can be seen in Alaska and Siberia. It chooses these locations as they provide suitable conditions for nesting and raising their young.

The summers in these regions offer ample food sources and a suitable climate for the plovers to thrive. However, when the breeding season ends, the Pacific golden plover embarks on a remarkable journey.

It goes through a process called migration, which involves traveling long distances to find better resources and suitable habitats.

This plover is known for its extensive migration across the Pacific Ocean. During the non-breeding season, which is when they are not reproducing, the Pacific golden plover starts its migration.

It covers vast distances, flying across the Pacific Ocean to find other areas where it can find food and shelter.

This bird is considered medium-sized, which means it is not too small or too large. The migration of the Pacific golden plover is not limited to a specific route or destination.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Charadriiformes
Family Charadriidae
Genus Pluvialis
Species P. fulva

2. House Finch

House Finch

The house finch is a type of bird that belongs to the finch family called Fringillidae. This bird is originally from western North America.

However, it has also been introduced to other parts of the continent, such as the eastern half, as well as Hawaii. The house finch is not the only bird in its genus.

It is grouped together with two other American rosefinches, and all three are placed in the genus Haemorhous. The house finch is known for its beautiful red coloration, especially in males. The males have a reddish hue on their heads, chests, and backs.

Females, on the other hand, have more muted colors, with brownish feathers. These birds are relatively small in size, measuring about 12 to 16 centimeters in length. They have short wings and a slightly notched tail.

Their beaks are conical in shape, designed for cracking open seeds, which are their primary source of food. House finches are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, forests, and grasslands.

They are known for their melodious songs, which they use to communicate and attract mates. Breeding season for these.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Fringillidae
Genus Haemorhous
Species H. mexicanus

3. Warbling White-Eye

Warbling white-eye

The warbling white-eye is a small bird that belongs to the white-eye family. It is also known as the Japanese white-eye and mountain white-eye. This bird is classified as a passerine, which means it has feet adapted for perching.

Sometimes, the specific epithet (the second part of the scientific name) of this bird is written as japonica. However, this is considered incorrect because it does not match the gender of the genus. The genus of the warbling white-eye is Zosterops, and it is a masculine noun.

In scientific nomenclature, the specific epithet should agree with the gender of the genus. Since the genus Zosterops is masculine, the correct specific epithet for the warbling white-eye should be japonicus, not japonica.

This is because the suffix “-us” is commonly used for masculine nouns in Latin-based scientific names. It is important to use accurate scientific names to ensure proper identification and classification of species.

Correctly matching the gender of the genus and specific epithet helps maintain consistency and clarity in scientific communication.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Zosteropidae
Genus Zosterops
Species Z. japonicus

4. Northern Cardinal

Northern cardinal

The northern cardinal is a type of bird that is commonly referred to by different names such as redbird, common cardinal, red cardinal, or simply cardinal.

It belongs to the genus Cardinalis. The cardinal is primarily found in North America, particularly in regions such as the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It is known for its vibrant red plumage, which is more prominent in males than females.

The male cardinal has a distinctive crest on its head, while the female has a reddish tinge on its feathers. These birds are often observed in various habitats, including woodlands, gardens, and urban areas.

They are adaptable to different environments and can thrive in both rural and suburban settings.

Cardinals are also known for their beautiful songs, which are melodic and often used for communication and territorial marking. In terms of diet, the cardinal is omnivorous, meaning it eats a variety of foods.

Its diet consists of seeds, fruits, insects, and occasionally small reptiles or amphibians.

They have a strong beak that allows them to crack open seeds and fruits with ease. During the breeding season, which typically occurs in spring and early summer, cardinals engage in courtship rituals. The male cardinal displays its vibrant red plum.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Cardinalidae
Genus Cardinalis
Species C. cardinalis

5. Eurasian Skylark

Eurasian skylark

The Eurasian skylark is a type of bird that belongs to the lark family called Alaudidae. It is a passerine bird, which means it has feet adapted for perching and a specialized vocal apparatus for producing songs. This bird is found in many different places around the world.

It is distributed across Europe and the Palearctic region, which includes parts of Asia and North Africa. The Eurasian skylark has managed to establish introduced populations in other areas as well. One such area is Australia, where the bird has been introduced.

This means that humans intentionally brought the species to Australia, and it has managed to survive and reproduce there. The same is true for New Zealand, where the Eurasian skylark has also been introduced.

In addition to these places, the Eurasian skylark has even made its way to the Hawaiian Islands. It is not native to this area, but humans have introduced the bird there as well.

This means that there are now populations of Eurasian skylarks living on the Hawaiian Islands, even though they are not naturally found there. Overall, the Eurasian skylark is a widespread species that can be found in many different parts of the world.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Alaudidae
Genus Alauda
Species A. arvensis

6. Thrush


The thrushes are a type of bird that belongs to the passerine bird family called Turdidae. This family of birds is found all over the world. In the past, the Turdidae family was even bigger than it is now.

However, biologists decided to reclassify a group of birds called the Saxicolinae, which includes chats and European robins. They were moved to a different family called Old World flycatchers. This reclassification by biologists led to a change in the size of the thrush family.

The Saxicolinae, which were once considered a part of the thrush family, were now placed in a new family known as Old World flycatchers.

This decision was made based on certain characteristics and similarities that these birds share. Chats and European robins, which were previously considered part of the thrush family, are now classified as Old World flycatchers.

This means that they are no longer included in the Turdidae family. Instead, they have their own separate family designation. The term “Old World” refers to Europe, Asia, and Africa, which are the regions where these flycatchers are commonly found.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Turdidae

7. Spotted Dove

Spotted dove

The spotted dove is a type of pigeon that is found in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is a small bird with a somewhat long tail. It is known for being a common resident breeding bird in its native range.

This means that it lives in these areas year-round and reproduces there. However, the spotted dove is not restricted to its native range. It has been introduced to many other parts of the world.

This means that people have intentionally brought the bird to new locations where it did not originally exist.

The reasons for introducing the spotted dove to new areas may vary, such as for agricultural purposes or as pets. Once introduced, the spotted dove has been able to adapt and establish feral populations.

Feral populations refer to birds that live and reproduce in the wild, without any direct human care or control.

This indicates that the spotted dove can survive and thrive in different environments outside of its native range. The establishment of feral populations highlights the success of the spotted dove as a species.

It shows that it is capable of adapting to new habitats and finding the resources it needs to survive. The ability to establish feral populations also means that the spotted dove has the potential to become an invasive species in some areas.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Columbiformes
Family Columbidae
Genus Spilopelia
Species S. chinensis

8. Northern Mockingbird

Northern mockingbird

The northern mockingbird is a type of bird that is commonly found in North America. It is known for its ability to mimic the songs of other birds and even sounds from its environment.

This bird is typically seen throughout the year in North America, as it is a permanent resident in the region. However, during periods of extreme weather, such as harsh winters, some northern mockingbirds may decide to migrate south in search of more favorable conditions.

This migration is not common and only occurs when the weather becomes too challenging for these birds to handle. Despite being primarily found in North America, the northern mockingbird has been occasionally observed in Europe.

However, such sightings are quite rare, and this species is not considered a regular visitor to the European continent. It is interesting to note the adaptability of the northern mockingbird in terms of its ability to survive in different environments.

While it is mainly found in North America, it can move to more suitable locations during times of adversity. The northern mockingbird’s ability to mimic sounds is a unique characteristic that sets it apart from other bird species.

This skill allows it to imitate the songs of various birds, as well as sounds like car alarms, sirens, or even human speech.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Mimidae
Genus Mimus
Species M. polyglottos

9. Lesser Scaup

Lesser scaup

The lesser scaup is a type of duck found in North America. It is known for its ability to dive underwater. During the winter season, these ducks migrate to warmer areas in Central America.

This migration allows them to escape the harsh weather conditions that come with the colder months. One interesting feature of the lesser scaup is its blue bill.

This distinctive characteristic has led to its colloquial names, such as “little bluebill” or “broadbill.” The blue color of their bills helps differentiate them from other duck species. These ducks are relatively small in size compared to other diving ducks.

They have a compact body and short necks. This physical structure enables them to swim and dive effortlessly in search of food underwater. In their search for food, lesser scaups primarily feed on aquatic plants, insects, and small crustaceans.

Their diving ability allows them to explore the depths of lakes and ponds, where they can find an abundance of these food sources. During the breeding season, male lesser scaups develop a striking appearance.

They have a glossy black head and neck, contrasting with their white sides and back. This distinctive coloration helps attract females for mating. Females, on the other hand, have a more subtle appearance.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Anseriformes
Family Anatidae
Genus Aythya
Species A. affinis

10. Japanese Bush Warbler

Japanese bush warbler

The Japanese bush warbler is a bird that is commonly found in Asia. It is also known by its Japanese name, uguisu.

This bird is more often heard rather than seen, meaning that its beautiful songs are more noticeable than its physical appearance. During the breeding season, the Japanese bush warbler produces a distinctive and melodious song.

This song is quite famous and can be heard in various parts of Japan, particularly during the beginning of spring.

It is during this time that the bird’s song resonates throughout much of the country, filling the air with its enchanting melody. The unique breeding song of the Japanese bush warbler is what makes it special.

It is a sound that captures the essence of nature and signifies the arrival of spring.

When people hear this song, they know that warmer days are approaching and that the world is undergoing a transformation. Despite its prevalence, the Japanese bush warbler is not often seen by humans.

It tends to remain hidden among the dense vegetation, making it challenging to spot.

However, the bird’s song provides a constant reminder of its presence and adds a touch of magic to the natural surroundings. The Japanese bush warbler’s song is not only a delight to the ears but also serves a purpose.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Cettiidae
Genus Horornis
Species H. diphone

11. Cardinalidae


Cardinalidae is a family of birds that are found only in the New World. This means that they are native to the Americas and are not found anywhere else in the world. The family is made up of different species, including cardinals, grosbeaks, and buntings.

These birds are all part of the same family because they share similar characteristics and traits. Cardinals are perhaps the most well-known members of the Cardinalidae family. They are known for their vibrant red plumage, which is more prominent in the males than in the females.

Cardinals are often seen in backyards and gardens, where they feed on seeds and insects. They have a distinct crest on their heads, which adds to their unique appearance. Grosbeaks are another type of bird that belongs to the Cardinalidae family.

They are named after their large, thick beaks, which are adapted for cracking open seeds and nuts. Grosbeaks come in various colors, including red, black, and yellow.

They are known for their beautiful songs and can be found in forests and woodlands across the Americas. Buntings are also part of the Cardinalidae family. They are small to medium-sized birds that are known for their colorful plumage.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Passeriformes
Family Cardinalidae

12. California Quail

California quail

The California quail is a type of bird that lives on the ground. It is also sometimes called the California Valley quail or Valley quail. These birds belong to the New World quail family. One interesting feature of the California quail is its crest or plume.

This is a curved bunch of feathers on top of its head. The crest is made up of six feathers. In male quails, the crest is black. However, in female quails, the crest is brown. Another distinctive characteristic of the California quail is its appearance.

The birds have brown flanks, which are the sides of their bodies. On these flanks, there are white streaks.

These streaks create a pattern on the bird’s feathers, making it look unique. The California quail is a ground-dwelling bird, which means it spends most of its time on the ground rather than flying.

This bird is usually found in the western parts of the United States, particularly in the state of California. It prefers habitats such as grasslands, foothills, and agricultural areas. These quails are social birds and often live in groups called coveys.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Galliformes
Family Odontophoridae
Genus Callipepla
Species C. californica

13. Sanderling


The sanderling is a type of bird that is known for being small and wading in water. It gets its name from the Old English word “sand-yrðling,” which means “sand-ploughman.” This name reflects its behavior of foraging or searching for food in the sand.

The name of the sanderling’s genus comes from the Ancient Greek words “kalidris” or “skalidris.” These terms were used by Aristotle, a famous philosopher and scientist, to describe certain birds that had a grey color and were often found near bodies of water.

In addition to the genus name, the sanderling also has a specific name. This specific name is “alba,” which comes from the Latin word for “white.” This name is fitting because the sanderling has predominantly white feathers, especially during the breeding season.

To summarize, the sanderling is a small wading bird that is known for its sand-ploughing behavior. Its name has roots in both Old English and Ancient Greek, reflecting its characteristics and appearance. The specific name “alba” further emphasizes its white plumage.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Clade Dinosauria
Class Aves
Order Charadriiformes
Family Scolopacidae
Genus Calidris
Species C. alba


While winter is often associated with a decrease in bird activity in many parts of the world, Hawaii offers a unique exception with its diverse population of winter birds.

These avian visitors bring vibrant colors and joyful songs to the islands during the cooler months, adding to the already spectacular natural beauty of Hawaii.

From migratory birds seeking respite from the harsher climates of North America and Siberia to the native species that thrive year-round, the presence of winter birds in Hawaii offers a reminder of the interconnectedness of the global bird community.

As conservation efforts continue to protect their habitats and promote sustainable practices, the winter birds of Hawaii can continue to enchant both locals and visitors alike for generations to come.

So, whether you are an avid birdwatcher or simply an admirer of nature, be sure to take the time to appreciate the delightful sights and sounds of the winter birds in Hawaii.

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