Diamond Head is one of the most iconic and familiar natural sites in Hawaii, and it is a popular tourist destination for hiking and photography. Birders can also enjoy the state park, however, and there are several Hawaiian birds that can be added to a life list during a quick visit to Diamond Head.
About Diamond Head
Diamond Head, known as Le'ahi to locals, is on the island of Oahu and just a quick drive from downtown Honolulu or Waikiki. It is a geologic tuff cone formed from a pair of volcanic eruptions roughly 300,000 years ago, but is no longer active. Because of its popularity, it is easy to visit Diamond Head on a prearranged tour from a hotel or cruise ship, or it can be accessed by any visitor. While the best birding is in the bowl of the crater, visitors can also climb the 1.5-mile rough hewn path to the summit for spectacular panoramic views of the island.
The Birds of Diamond Head
Because of Diamond Head's urban location and the strong popularity that brings busy crowds to the trail, rare species of birds are unlikely to be found there. Birders on their first visit to Hawaii, however, can easily see a number of unique species that have been introduced to the islands and thrive near human habitats. Birds that can be easily seen at Diamond Head include:
- Common Myna
- Common Waxbill
- Japanese White-Eye
- Java Sparrow
- Pacific Golden Plover
- Red-Crested Cardinal
- Red-Vented Bulbul
- Spotted Dove
- Zebra Dove
An informational sign near the restrooms at the base of the trail gives brief information about many of the resident birds and how they came to be in Hawaii. Many of them are introduced species but are now well established in the region, and can be quite tame and easy to see.
The best birding is in the crater's bowl early in the day before the unique geography of the crater causes temperatures to rise. Birders should check all shrubby areas and trees for different birds, and several species are often seen foraging around the picnic areas. More open areas are better suited to the plover, and bulbuls often perch high in scrub vegetation along the lower part of the hiking trail.
Feeding the birds is prohibited, but birders will have no trouble getting good views without the need to tempt the birds any closer.
Planning Your Visit
Diamond Head State Park is open 365 days a year from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 per vehicle or $1 per pedestrian. Visitors who plan to hike to the summit should be in good physical condition and able to climb steep stairs and navigate narrow, uneven paths. It is recommended to allow 1.5-2 hours to complete the hike, not counting time spent watching birds along the way. Sunscreen, comfortable hiking shoes, and water are highly recommended. For birders, a wide-brimmed had is useful, but a spotting scope is not required.