This wildlife refuge on the northernmost island of the main Hawaiian Islands is home to shearwaters, tropicbirds, boobies, and frigatebirds, and it’s one of the best places in the world to see albatrosses.
By Hob Osterlund | Published: 6/25/2010
I love Kilauea Point because every day is different. One day I might see a juvenile Red-footed Booby (known as ’Ā in Hawaiian) practice flying by touching the tip of the lighthouse. The next day an adult male might pluck nesting material and attempt to fly with a big branch. Downy Wedge-tailed Shearwater (’Ua’u’kani) chicks might doze in the sun. A Great Frigatebird (’Iwa) might tailgate a booby in an attempt to steal lunch.
Far and away what I love most is the Laysan Albatross (Mōli). The refuge is one of the only places in the world where people of all ages and of any physical stamina can witness an albatross, one of the world’s most glorious birds. Laysans soar by you at eye level, as the photo above shows. Bright and affectionate, they are unafraid of humans. The not-ready-for-nesting teenagers fly above and around the “Albatross Hill” nesting area, then return to whinny, moo, and stand on tiptoe in endlessly entertaining flirtations. Adults mate for life. The oldest known wild bird in North America is a Laysan Albatross. “Wisdom” is 59 years old, just raised another chick, and doesn’t show any signs of aging. The birds are magnificent, and their gradual return to Kauai over the last 30 years is cause for celebration. — Hob Osterlund
Hob Osterlund is a clinical nurse specialist in pain and palliative care at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. She performs in and produces comedy skits as nurse Ivy Push for hospital television stations on the Chuckle Channel. And she is a freelance writer and photographer who studies albatross behavior. We featured her picture of a family of White Terns as a Photo of the Week in December 2009.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Coastal volcanic remnant, 568-foot ocean bluff.
Flat. Paved path from parking lot to Kilauea Point wheelchair-accessible.
Year-round: Red-footed Booby, Brown Booby (offshore), Great Frigatebird, Hawaiian Goose, White-tailed Tropicbird. November-June: Laysan Albatross (peak January-March). March-November: Wedge-tailed Shearwater. March-October: Red-tailed Tropicbird. August-April: Pacific Golden-Plover. Uncommon/rare: Masked Booby, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Ruddy Turnstone (August-April), Black-footed Albatross (November-March), Red-billed Tropicbird, Cackling Goose, Bulwer’s Petrel.
When to go
Year-round. To see a specific bird, be sure to check timing. January-March is best time to see humpback whales.
Historic Kilauea Point lighthouse. Free rides on four-seater golf carts from parking lot to Kilauea Point for people needing assistance. Recent-sightings list, gift shop, free loaner binoculars, and restrooms at Visitors Center. No food allowed within the refuge.
National wildlife refuge. Open 10-4 daily. Closed on federal holidays. Entry fee $5. Children under 16 free. Free parking.
Intermittent rain squalls, especially in fall and winter. Shorts and t-shirts are usually enough clothing; lightweight windbreaker useful. Can be hot, especially in summer. Bring sunscreen, hat, and water. Bring camera with telephoto lens, if you have one. When the refuge is closed, park at overlook just before the entrance for scenic views and great birds.
For more info
Kilauea Point NWR, (808) 828-1413