For birders, Hawaii is often a destination to see critically endangered endemic forest birds such as honeycreepers, but the 50th state is also home to several endangered waterbirds. On Maui, one of the best places to see these birds is Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, one of the state’s top birding hotspots.
Established in 1992 to protect Hawaiian waterbirds, Kealia Pond consists of approximately 700 acres, including one of the finest remaining natural wetlands in Hawaii. The refuge features two birding locations: the 2,200-foot Kealia Coastal Boardwalk and paths along levees around the Kanuimanu Aquaculture Ponds near the visitor center. The locations (both are eBird hotspots) are on opposite sides of Kealia Pond, and there is no easy way to walk between them.
Kealia Pond is an excellent spot for Hawaiian Coot and Hawaiian Stilt, the endemic subspecies of Black-necked Stilt. Also present are hybrids of Hawaiian Duck and nonmigratory Mallard. (Genetically pure Hawaiian Ducks occur primarily on Kauai.)
In winter, many migratory species are present, including, incongruously, Snow Geese. Plus, a number of vagrants have made their way to the refuge, including Garganey, Curlew Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, and Eared Grebe.