The beautiful Hawaiian islands are home to a variety of exotic and unique flora and animals. Nonetheless, certain animals have developed to play very specific tasks due to its distant and distinct position, while others have vanished entirely. Just two hawks species are regularly seen in Hawaii.
HAWKS IN HAWAII
Although there are likely other types of hawks that visit Hawaii on a regular basis, only two types of hawks are known to do so at this time. One is a native of the islands, while the other is a vagabond.
The peregrine falcon and the osprey are two other birds of prey that may be mistaken for hawks in Hawaii. Both are birds of prey, but neither is a true hawk; the osprey is sometimes referred to as a “fish hawk.”
1. NORTHERN HARRIER
Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
Length: 18.1-19.7 in
Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz
Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in
The northern harrier is a North American species that may be found throughout Mexico and Canada up to Alaska. However, they have been recorded in Hawaii on several occasions and are treated as vagrants. A vagrant is a bird that has been discovered far from its natural habitat in this case. They are, however, recognized as a prospective hawk that may be observed on the islands.
They have been seen multiple times at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu. On the Big Island (along Saddle Road in the Waiki’i Ranch region) and in the southeastern part of Maui, there have been a few additional reports on eBird.
The face of the northern harrier is nearly owl-like. This disc-shaped face, which resembles an owl, directs sound into the ears of these creatures to aid them hunt by hearing and sight. The long tail and white patch above the tail are two helpful identifying features. Their wings are held in the form of a “V” during flight, which is a trademark of their style.
This hawk creates a platform in dense vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike many hawks that nest in trees. Males may have two (or more) partners at once, and the female and her offspring will be fed by both of them.
2. HAWAIIAN HAWK (‘IO)
Scientific name: Buteo solitarius
Length: 16-18 inches
Weight: 21.3 oz females, 15.6 oz males
The Hawaiian hawk is the only hawk found in the state of Hawaii. ‘Io’ is their indigenous name. Only on the Big Island can you find this hawk today, but there is evidence that suggests they were once found on many of the islands.
They may be available in a variety of hues. Light and dark color morphs are the most common. A dark brown, almost entirely dark morph. The head, back, and wings of the light morph are dark brown, while the stomach is light. A completely white head or a “golden” head with a light orange tint may also occur as part of the light morph.
Perching and hunting are common activities for these hawks. Before the Polynesians arrived in the islands, these hawks are said to have hunted for ducks and rails due to the lack of many native species in Hawaii. Several species have been introduced to the island as a result of increased human activity, including rats, mongoose, flies, lizards, and game birds.
The Hawaiian hawk is known for its “eeeh-oh” cry, which they use throughout the nesting season, which runs from March to September. Both sexes participate in the construction of nests, which may take up to two months. For around 5 weeks, the female will incubate the bulk of the eggs, typically one or three at a time.
Before the chicks are ready to leave the nest, it takes around 7-8 weeks, and the male comes to provide food throughout this time. For up to nine months, the juvenile hawks will be reliant on their parents.
Although they were removed off the list in 2020, they were designated as an endangered species. Nonetheless, they are still considered a vulnerable species, with the designation of “near threatened.” Several hazards await the ‘Io, including deforestation and degradation of forest habitat.
The name of this hawk is derived from the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, which was erected by King Kalakaua in 1882. The light morph and dark morph spotted at his home on the Big Island are shown in this great video shot by a Hawaiian local.