Greg Miller Big Year Series

HAWAII: Birding the Island Endemics



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2024 :: February 20 - February 28
2024 :: October 1 - October 9



From: $6,450 (See details)
Cost is per person, double occupancy from Honolulu, HI (HNL)


5 - 12 Participants


February 2024: FULL
October 2024: 10 spaces available


This tour is available as a private trip for any size group. The tour cost will vary with the number of people and any custom requests.

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Highlights of HAWAII: Birding the Island Endemics

  • Beautiful forests and beaches
  • Many endemic species
  • Pelagic seabirding trip!

Description of HAWAII: Birding the Island Endemics

Best known for Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii hosts a large variety of endemic birds. On this fun, exploratory adventure we will visit three main Islands: Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii. Hawaii’s degree of endemism in birds is best witnessed through the colorful Hawaiian Honeycreepers—the brilliant jewels of the native forests. Some 20 of these species of honeycreepers still remain—most are highly endangered. Each island is home to a unique group of honeycreepers as well as other native forest bird species, and we will focus on these throughout the Islands. Smoking volcanos, thundering waterfalls, lush forests, deep canyons and the beautiful Pacific Ocean round out an incredible trip!

Length of Tour


Day 1: Arrival Day in Honolulu, Oʻahu

Upon arrival in Honolulu (HNL), take a shuttle, or cab, to the Queen Kapiʻolani Hotel in Waikīkī, where Mandy will have already reserved a room in your name. Check in is any time after 3pm. We will gather in the lobby at 6pm to meet new friends before our welcome dinner together.
Night in Waikīkī

Day 2: Birding Oʻahu

This morning we start our day in Kapiʻolani Park, next to our hotel, to admire visiting Pacific Golden Plovers and Honolulu’s city bird, the beautiful White Tern. While exploring the park we are sure to encounter a myriad of introduced species among the banyan and rainbow shower trees, such as Common Myna, Red-crested Cardinal, Red-vented Bulbul, Yellow-fronted Canary, Java Sparrow, Common Waxbill, Spotted Dove, Zebra Dove, and Rose-ringed Parakeet. After breakfast we will leave the city behind and enter the rainforests of the Koʻolau Mountains in pursuit of Oʻahu’s endemic honeycreeper, the Oʻahu ʻAmakihi, before we transcend down into the valleys to search for the endangered Oʻahu ʻElepaio. While on our endemic bird adventure we will most likely encounter Whtie-rumped Shama, noisy flocks of Red-billed Leiothrix, an occasional Red-whiskered Bulbul, and chattering Warbling White-eyes.
Night in Waikīkī

Day 3: Birding Oʻahu’s North Shore

Today we journey up the picturesque windward side to experience the serenity of Oʻahu’s North Shore in search of visiting shorebirds, such as the Wandering Tattler and sought-after Bristle-thighed Curlew. While cruising the coastline, famous for world class surf beaches and secluded coves with basking sea turtles, we are sure to find some flashy finches, such as the Saffron Finch and Chestnut Munia. The North Shore is also home to some of the last family farms on Oʻahu with crops of coffee, cacao, eggplant, papaya, pineapple, banana, and even scattered shrimp farms with Black-crowned Night Heron, the endemic Hawaiian Coot, Common Gallinule (endemic subspecies), and Black-necked Stilt (endemic subspecies).
Night in Waikīkī

Day 4: Flight to the Big Island

We will fly to the Big Island after breakfast to bird Saddle Road for Short-eared Owl (endemic subspecies), Eurasian Skylark, Chukar, California Quail, Wild Turkey, Erckel’s Spurfowl, Black, and Gray francolins and more. From the high elevations of Pu`u La`au along the slopes of Mauna Kea, we will drive through Waikoloa in search of more introduced species, like Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, African Silverbill and Red Avadavat.

Day 5: Birding Big Island’s native forest

Experience Hakalau aka Hawaiʻi’s honeycreeper heaven! Hakalau Forest NWR is a publicly restricted montane cloud forest refuge and is home to many of Hawaiʻi’s endangered plants, native arthropods, and endemic birds. We will search for the unique Hawaiʻi ‘Alawī (creeper), the gorgeous day glow orange Hawaiʻi ʻAkepa, the stunning long billed ʻAkiapōlāʻau, the ʻIo (Hawaiian Hawk), Hawaiʻi ʻElepaio, and ʻŌmaʻo (Hawaiʻi Island’s endemic thrush) with beautiful I’iwi, Hawaiʻi ʻAmakihi, and ʻApapane all over the blossoms of ancient ‘Ohi’a trees enshrouding us. We will bird Saddle Road on our way to the refuge looking for Short-eared Owl (endemic subspecies), Eurasian Skylark, Chukar, California Quail, Wild Turkey, Erckel’s Spurfowl, Black, and Gray francolins and more with a stop in Waikoloa in hopes of more introduced specialties, like Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and African Silverbill.
Night in Kona

Day 6: Pelagic Birding off Big Island

We embark on a pelagic birding charter out of Honokohau Harbor with an experienced local captain for Black Noddy, Brown Noddy, Sooty Tern, Brown Booby, White-tailed Tropicbird, Great Frigatebird, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, and Bulwer’s Petrel with hopes of finding: Masked Booby, Hawaiian Petrel, Black-winged Petrel, Mottled Petrel, Juan Fernandez Petrel, White-necked Petrel, Newell’s Shearwater, Christmas Shearwater, Leach’s Storm Petrel, Band-rumped Storm Petrel, all three jaegar species, South Polar Skua, incidental cetacean sightings, and more!
Night in Kona

Day 7: Flight to Kaua’i and Birding Kaua’i

After breakfast we fly to Līhuʻe and discover the beauty of Kaua’i’s north shore in pursuit of impressive seabirds along Kīlauea Lighthouse NWR’s stunning coastline and more endemic water birds amongst Hanalei NWR’s historic loʻi ponds. While scanning the rugged cliffs of Kīlauea covered with Red-footed Boobies and surveying the skies for Brown Booby, spectacular Red-tailed and White-tailed tropicbirds, majestic Laysan Albatross, and soaring Great Frigatebirds, we will enjoy up close views of Hawaiʻi’s state bird, the Nene (Hawaiian Goose). We will then explore Hanalei valley’s lush important bird area for more of Hawaiʻi’s endangered water birds, such as the Hawaiian Duck.
Night in Kapaʻa

Day 8: Birding Kaua’i

We embark on a rainforest adventure with astounding views of Waimea Canyon, the Pacific’s Grand Canyon, on our journey into Kōkeʻe State Park to find Kaua’i ‘s endemic Kaua’i ʻAmakihi, ʻApapane, ʻAnianiau, and Kaua’i ʻElepaio with hopes of a glimpse of the rare ‘Akeke’e. Other forest birds we should encounter in Kōkeʻe include Red Junglefowl, the skulky Japanese Bush Warbler and melodious Chinese Hwamei.
Night in Kapaʻa

Day 9: Birding Kaua’i and Departure Day from Lihue, Kaua’i

On our last morning on Kaua’i we will search for the rare Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush and any of Kaua’i’s specialty species we haven’t already found before we check out at 11am.


Cost is $6,450 per person, based upon double occupancy, from Honolulu, HI (Airport code HNL).
This trip ends in Lihue, HI (Airport code LIH).

Included in Tour Cost

All meals, all ground transportation, inter-island flights (2 total), entrance fees, permits, services of two leaders.

Not Included in Tour Cost

International or mainland to Hawaii flights, airport taxes, luggage fees, trip insurance, alcoholic beverages, phone calls, laundry, or other items of a personal nature or not specifically mentioned in itinerary.

Single Supplement

If a single room is preferred, or we are unable to find a suitable roommate for you, a single supplement fee of $1,100 will be assessed.

Deposit Requirements

A $500 deposit per person is required to hold each space on this tour. Deposit may be made online by clicking the "Book Your Trip Now" button and using any credit card. If you prefer, you may call us at 888-875-9453 to pay by phone. You may also mail us a check, however, remember that all space is held on a first come-first served basis as deposits are received.

Minimum Number

If fewer than the minimum number of required participants are registered, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a small-group supplement fee, per person, determined by the number of participants registered.

How to Book

In order to hold your space, click the "Book Your Trip Now" button above and complete the deposit process, including payment of the deposit through our Paypal portal using ANY CREDIT CARD. Upon completion of deposit, please visit our secure, online CLIENT INFORMATION FORM to complete your registration.

Final Payment

For all land-based tours: full payment by check is due 120 days prior to the departure date.

For all boat-based adventure cruises of 7-days or longer: full payment by check is required 180 days prior to departure.

NOTE: If you prefer to use credit card for final payment, a 3% fee may be added to cover the credit card merchant fees we incur.


Enjoy unparalleled views of the mountains and the ocean at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel, Sheraton Kauai Coconut Resort, and the central location on The Holiday Inn express in historic Kailua-Kona. These beautiful locations feature guest rooms with complimentary high-speed wireless Internet, in room refrigerators, and private lanais just outside the hustle and bustle of the city.

Activity Level Rating: (Note: 1 is easy and 5 is difficult)

You should be prepared to bird in hot and humid environments, expect some mud and rain, and realize the highlands can be quite brisk or even cool. Sea conditions on the pelagic trips can range from calm seas to moderately rough, so you must have decent balance and an ability to steady yourself on a moving boat. Those with balance and stability issues should bring collapsible walking sticks and those who find it difficult to stand for long periods of time should bring a small travel stool. 

To reach the highland forests where the native birds are found and searching for pelagic birds by boat, will require us to start some of our days early, as we’ll want to be near our destinations before the typical Hawaii trade wind patterns bring afternoon showers and light wind. Other departures will be more leisurely, but we do make sure we are out in the morning when bird activity is highest and the heat and/or chance of rain is lowest.

Much of our birding will be easy walking on roads, wide trails, and boats. The Koʻolau valley trails, where we will search for Oʻahu ʻElepaio, can often be rocky, humid, slippery, muddy and buggy with a gradual and slight elevation gain. The Alakaʻi, bordering Kōkeʻe, is montane wet forest, with temperatures ranging from 50 -80 degrees Fahrenheit around 4,000’ above sea level, and is still known to be one of the wettest places on Earth.

Hakalau Forest NWR, where most of Hawaiʻi’s remaining endemic forest birds live, is also a montane rainforest. Even if it’s not raining, it will most likely be wet, slippery and muddy with temperatures ranging from 50 -70 degrees Fahrenheit around 6,400’ above sea level. Quick dry layers, sun protection, rain gear and waterproof hiking shoes with good grip and ankle support are recommended.

Birding along the coastlines will be within short walks from the van. You should be able to easily get in and out of a van (sometimes repeatedly), and be comfortable walking at least two and a half miles, some of it on slopes where traction may not be the best and where footing is uneven.

Hawaii-New Zealand field guide

Birds of Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Central and West Pacific
by Ber van Perlo

Purchasing Flights

Do not purchase your flights until the trip has been confirmed to go.

Detailed Trip Information

Upon notification that final payment is due (120 days prior to departure for land based tours / 180 days for boat based tours), you will receive a trip package of detailed information for your tour.

Any additional information about the trip, including lodgings, contacts, participants, meeting locations, etc., will sent about 2 weeks prior to the trip departure, or after final payment is received for late registrants.

Travel Insurance

As with all tours, we recommend purchasing Travel Insurance to help cover your investment, for covered reasons. Please see our section on Travel Insurance.

Passport & Visa

US Citizens may require a visa to enter certain foreign countries. See above for any required visa information.

Participants arriving to the USA from a foreign country may need to get a travel visa to enter the United States. Be sure to check the requirements for your country of origin.

Itinerary Changes

The trip itinerary is developed many months ahead of time. Occasionally, despite our best planning, changes may occur during the trip, or we may be forced to alter our plans. Changes may occur because of weather, road conditions, safety concerns or other circumstances. In these situations, it is the leader(s) responsibility to carefully consider and implement appropriate alternatives. Any additional costs incurred because of changes will be the responsibility of each individual participant. Refunds will not be issued as a result of itinerary changes.

Location Map