Maui's Native Species
By Kenneth Rothman
While you're on your vacation to Maui, your attention will probably be drawn to many of the species that live here, but do you know which are native and which are introduced? If you're at all interested in the island's fauna, read on for a quick orientation.
The sea turtles around Maui are usually the green variety, and only rarely hawksbill or leatherback. Dolphins are usually spinners, but you might also see spotted or bottlenose dolphins. The monk seal is another marine animal you might see, although that is extremely rare. They are one of only two native Hawaiian mammals. The other is the Hawaiian hoary bat. Once upon a time, Maui had no mice, rats, deer, wild boar, mongooses, or feral cats.
Most birds you will see are also introduced. There are doves, finches, sparrows, cardinals and mynah birds, among others, but all were introduced at one point or another in our history. Maui's native bird species include a handful of gorgeous little jewels called honeycreepers, along with the Hawaiian crow (alala), the Hawaiian owl (pueo), the Hawaiian stilt and the nene goose, which is Hawaii's state bird. The honeycreepers live at high elevation because of habitat destruction and disease spread by mosquitoes. Fortunately, mosquitoes can't survive at high elevations. The good news is that conservation efforts are going well at the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project (MFBRP) and at the Maui Bird Conservation Center. The MFBRP provides handy little webpages on each of the 7 Maui honeycreepers. Two are endangered and one is thought to be extinct, but the remaining four are doing alright. Birdwatchers should definitely try to catch a glimpse of these biological treasures. The bright red plumage of the I'iwi or the stark yellow feathers of the Maui Alauahio are sure to dazzle the eye before a backdrop of deep green foliage.
If we were to try to list all the native and non-native fish species that live in the ocean surrounding the island, this blog would be way too long. The same goes for plant species, although we may touch on these in summary another time. If you want to learn more about the wildlife on your Maui trip, there are a few good spots to visit. Hosmer's Grove up on Haleakala is a good one for bird watching. The Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge at sea level in Ma'alaea also provides some good bird watching, and educational information. The Maui Ocean Center is a great place to learn about the marine life. If you are interested in the humpback whales that come here every winter, you might also check out McGregor Lookout Point, which is widely considered the best shoreline whale watching spot on the island. There is also an information station that is staffed by Pacific Whale Foundation naturalists on a daily basis.
Hopefully now you will feel that you have some familiarity with wildlife around Maui. There is always more to learn, and we hope you enjoy the process! Have a wonderful vacation, and if you need any assistance with your accommodations, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!