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Hotspots Near You

309. Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, Kihei, Hawaii

This 700-acre refuge is one of the finest remaining natural wetlands in Hawaii.

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.

309. Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, Kihei, Hawaii

Directions

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge sits on the south-central coast of Maui, overlooking Maalaea Bay, about 8 miles south of the Kahului Airport. The entrance road to the visitor center and Kanuimanu Aquaculture Ponds is located at milepost 6 on Highway 311, 1 mile north of the town of Kihei. The Kealia Coastal Boardwalk is off Highway 310.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
20°47’41.07″N 156°27’58.46″W

Habitat

Marshes, ponds, wetlands, and coastal beaches.

Terrain

The visitor center and Kealia Coastal Boardwalk are wheelchair-accessible.

Birds

Year-round: Mallard, Hawaiian Coot, Black-necked (Hawaiian) Stilt, Ruddy Turnstone, Pacific Golden-Plover, Wandering Tattler, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-faced Ibis, Warbling White-eye, Common Myna, Spotted and Zebra Doves, Scaly-breasted Munia, Northern Cardinal, Red-crested Cardinal. Fall through spring: Snow Goose, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Pacific Golden-Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher. Uncommon: Short-eared Owl (pueo), I’iwi, Apapane. 

When to go

Year-round, though the pond is smaller in summer because it fluctuates with the seasons.

Amenities

Kealia Coastal Boardwalk open daily, including federal holidays, from sunrise until 7 p.m.

Access

National wildlife refuge. No fees. Open 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Visitor center open Monday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed on federal holidays.

Tips

Morning is best, as winds are lowest. Bring sunscreen or a hat, as there is no shade.

For more info

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, (808) 875-1582.
Hawaii Birding Trails
Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project
Hawaii Audubon

Sites nearby

Hosmer Grove Campground, Haleakala National Park, Hotspot Near You No. 261
About one hour east of Kealia Pond. This former experimental forest is one of the most accessible locations to find several native honeycreepers.

Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary
On Maui’s north-central coast, this national natural landmark has many of the same species as Kealia Pond. 

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Jason A. Crotty

Jason A. Crotty is birder, lawyer, and contributor to BirdWatching, 10000birds.com, and other outlets. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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