The Hawaiian Islands are probably best known for spectacular scenery and wonderful climate. But ever since they emerged above the sea as volcanic mountaintops, they have provided a home for a unique and constantly changing community of animals. First to arrive were seabirds and sea turtles. Of course, birds dominated the scene, but two mammals, a seal and a bat, also managed to find the islands.
Hawai‘i’s wildlife today is an odd mixture of native and introduced species. Seabirds such as boobies, frigatebirds, tropicbirds, terns, and shearwaters find refuge on offshore islets, and songbirds such as cardinals, bulbuls, sparrows, white-eyes, and finches. The most conspicuous mammal is the small Indian mongoose, and skinks, geckos, frogs, and toads add an element absent from pre-human Hawai‘i. In rural areas, today’s birds and mammals include deer, mouflon sheep, turkeys, pheasants, francolins, partridges, and quail. In lowland forests, feral pigs provide sport for local hunters and all but a few birds are non-natives. In high elevation native forests, native species of honeycreepers, thrushes, and ‘elepaios still predominate, and hoary bats, hawks, and insects at night.
Also included are the ocean creatures Hawai‘i is known for: dolphins, whales, sharks, rays, reef fish, and freshwater fish. Butterflies also make a beautiful showing.
Author: H. Douglas Pratt