The Hunt for the ‘Elepaio

The hunt for the O’ahu ‘Elepaio could have gone one of two ways: “three strikes and you’re out” or “third time’s a charm.”

Before I tell you the story of how that went for us, first let me warn you, I’m going to post quite possibly THE MOST unattractive pictures of myself of all time. Skipping to that part would be fun, but let me just start from the beginning.

Going into the new year, Ross and I were pretty confident that we’d be able to add Oahu ‘Elepaio to our year list, after all, we had just seen them in three different locations over a four day period at the end of December. Shouldn’t be too hard to find it again, right? We weren’t able to make it over to the valleys of Hawaii Kai on our Big Day to look for it so we decided to make a special trip for this bird the next day, January 2nd.

So on January 2nd, we headed over to Kuliouou Valley Trail to find this O’ahu endemic (aka bird that isn’t found anywhere else in the world.) About two weeks ago we had seen three elepai’o on this trail so it seemed like a pretty good place to look. We hiked back about a mile where we had one the last time, but all we could see were Red-billed Leiothrix, White-rumped Shama, and Japanese White-eyes. There were a lot of birds in the area which was nice, but not the bird we were looking for.


This is what a leiothrix looks like in case you were wondering. Not the bird we were looking for but these things are everywhere and super vocal.



Ross excited at the prospects of finding elepai’o on the first day

After about 2 ½ hours of hiking and not seeing the ‘elepaio we headed home.

That brings us to day Day 2 of our hunt…  After working a night shift at the hospital the night before, and being up for over 24 hours straight, I was picked up from work and Ross (who also stayed up all night working on the website and doing trip planning) and I headed directly back to Kuliouou valley trail. We hiked back the same trail we were on yesterday to the same spots where we were yesterday and continued searching again. About 45 minutes later I decided to let Ross go on ahead and I hung around the spot we had first seen the bird. Something I’ve learned, birding can be exhausting and frustrating and can, in my case, look a lot like this:

photo 3

Totally passed out. Oops.

photo 4

Ross says this is my “Red-breasted Flycatcher” impersonation

Most unattractive if I do say so myself. (borderline dead actually?)  I guess when I told him I would hang back and search for the bird in our first spot, I was lying. This is how he found me. Whoops. You can thank my kind husband for snapping these photos of me in my comatose state later. Andddddd on that note we headed back home so we could both get some real sleep.

Day 3, January 4th, was our last hope for finding this bird. With Ross and I’s work schedules and our upcoming trip to Kauai this weekend, this was our last day we would be available to look for the O’ahu ‘Elepaio. Ross decided that we would go to Wiliwilinui Valley Trail instead this time. With only 2 hours to find the bird before leaving for church, Ross was on a mission and didn’t even wait for me. He was hiking and birding so fast I didn’t even try to keep up.

Thankfully it was a beautiful morning so I just meandered along the pig hunters’ trails while he ran around like a birder on a mission or something. Eventually we were together looking at a flock whiteeyes, bulbuls, leiothrix and shamas. Still No ‘Elepaio.  Anyway, we continued hiking on and came across another flock of birds. To make an already long and boring story short, guess who found the O’ahu ‘Elepaio?!?! Me! Winning.

It’s not often that I’m finding a bird to point out to my bird-expert husband, so I’ll take what I can get! It wasn’t a good look at the bird by any means and after a few seconds, the bird was gone, but in the end it was fun to spend that time in the woods  and now I can continue to ask Ross “Remember that one time that found an O’ahu ‘Elepaio?”

photo 5



Happy we found the O’ahu ‘Elepaio!


Can’t take pictures of a bird that you only see for a half of a second, but you can take pictures of the wild orchids. 🙂


5 thoughts on “The Hunt for the ‘Elepaio

  1. Just a heads up, the correct spelling and pronunciation is ʻElepaio, not elepaʻio. Glad you found some though!


  2. Perhaps you should go birding after you get some sleep but hey can’t beat sleeping outdoors in beautiful Hawaii with the soind of birds, oh and that hard rock for a bed.


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