A Return to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

A highlight of my annual visit to Kaua’i is a visit to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 when the land and the historic lighthouse were transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the U.S. Coast Guard. The ocean cliffs and open grassy slopes of an extinct volcano provide breeding grounds for native Hawai’ian seabirds and Nene, the endangered Hawai’ian goose.Kilauea Point gives visitors the unique opportunity to see Red-footed Boobies, Laysan Albatross and other seabirds in their natural habitat. In winter the National Marine Sanctuary waters off Kilauea are home to migrating Humpback Whales.

When you arrive at Kilauea Point the first thing that you notice is the astonishing numbers of huge seabirds circling around the point.

Great Frigatebird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Great Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

A Great Frigatebird hunts over the ocean.

I love watching the Red-footed Boobies!

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge,

Red-footed Booby

These birds, though ungainly and awkward on the ground, are lovely and graceful in flight.

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Red-footed Booby

The Red-footed Boobies are excellent fishers. The frigatebirds are less skilled and often steal fish from the unfortunate boobies. It is common to see frigatebirds chasing boobies.

Great Frigatebird, Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

The chase is on!

Great Frigatebird, Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

The chase continues.

For me, the most impressive birds are the Laysan Albatross. These huge birds fly so fast that they’re difficult to photograph. Most of my photos of them are not very sharp.

Laysan Albatross, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Laysan Albatross

I was fortunate enough to have one fly right over my head. I was, at last, able to get a nice sharp photo.

Laysan Albatross, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Laysan Albatross

By far the most beautiful birds are the tropicbirds, both red-tailed and white-tailed. They are enchanting to watch.

White-tailed Tropicbird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

White-tailed Tropicbird

Red-tailed Tropicbird, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Red-tailed Tropicbird

Nene wander on the grounds near the lighthouse. The official bird of the state of Hawaiʻi, the Nene is exclusively found in the wild on the islands of Maui, Kauaʻi and Hawaiʻi.

Nene family, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Nene family

Nene have feet that are only half as webbed as other geese, and they have longer toes for climbing on the rocky Hawai’ian surfaces.

Nene feet, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Nene feet closeup.

This Nene pair let me take a close photo of their darling gosling.

Nene gosling, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Nene gosling

The recently restored historic Kilauea Lighthouse is a beautiful sight. The first phase of the restoration work was completed in November 2008 when the anchor bolts securing the lantern room to the concrete tower were repaired and replaced. The second phase of the restoration involved repairing the unique cast iron roof and lantern assembly and stabilizing the fragile lens. The final phase, which was finished within the past year, entailed repairs to the concrete tower, opening the closed vents and window openings, installing new windows, and removing some exterior coating to return the tower to its original appearance.

Historic Kilauea Lighthouse, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Historic Kilauea Lighthouse

And did I mention that in winter you can see migrating humpback whales spouting from Kilauea point?

Migrating Humpback Whale, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

Migrating Humpback Whale

Here is a short video that I took at Kilauea NWR:

If you are fortunate enough to be able to travel to the beautiful island of Kaua’i, be sure to include a visit Kilauea Point in your travel plans.

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11 Comments

Filed under Hawaii bird photography, Hawaii photography, Kaua'i Birds, Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge

11 responses to “A Return to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

  1. A great post! Thanks for sharing the different birds in that area. Some cool looking birds.

  2. I agree with Steve. It is nice to see all of those different sea birds, etc. Thanks for sharing all this, Linda.

    • Thanks for your kind comments Bob. I do love seeing the huge seabirds. I guess coming from New Mexico where there are none makes the experience really special for me. :-)

  3. OMG~just watched the video. Heavenly! Birds cool~favorite was the Tropicbird

  4. Glorious images! You really captured some wonderful in-flight shots. Not an easy thing to do. It’s nice to see a Great Frigatebird close up, as I’ve only viewed them soaring especially high in the sky. My favorites are the tropicbirds and Nene youngster. Terrific series!

    • Thank you Julie. I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Kilauea Point is unique in that you can actually look across and sometimes even down at these wonderful birds. It’s a must-visit place when you travel to Kaua’i!

  5. cindy

    Breathtaking to see such magnificent birds! I did once in Tobago. Love Tropic birds! Great shot of Albatross & love the Great Frigate bird fishing..what an amazing trip!

  6. Thanks Cindy. It really is breathtaking. I have to be dragged away each time I visit. Kaua’i really is a lovely place for a vacation and for birding! :-)

  7. Wonderful Linda. I would so love to see the albatross and Bobies, I just love the looks of their bills.

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