Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge

A nonprofit devoted to conserving the unique flora and fauna of Hawai’i Island

Virtual birding tour of Hakalau Forest

Check out Jack Jeffrey’s birding tour of Hakalau Forest NWR on this YouTube video. 

Whether you’re a birder or not, you’ll learn much about Hawai’i Island’s endangered birds.

Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1985 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, consists of two distinct parcels. The Hakalau Forest Unit is a 32,830 acre parcel on the windward slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawai’i Island. In 1997 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased 5,300 acres south of Kailua-Kona, on the slopes of Mauna Loa, which became the Kona Forest Unit. In 2019, an additional 10,000 acres were added to the Kona Unit through the purchase of McCandless Ranch lands that are adjacent to the original parcel, making the total acreage for the Kona Forest Unit 15,448 acres.

The higher elevation Hakalau Forest Unit contains some of the finest remaining stands of native montane rain forest in Hawai’i and habitat for 29 critically endangered species including seven birds, one insect, one mammal and 20 plants found nowhere else in the world. Currently, it is the only place in Hawai’i where native forest bird populations are stable or increasing.

The lower elevation Kona Forest Unit is predominantly ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) trees with an understory of nonnative trees and shrubs and home to a number of endangered birds, plants and one insect. This area was home to the last wild pair of ʻalalā (Corvus hawaiiensis) in 2002. The primary purpose of this unit is to protect, conserve and manage this native forest for threatened or endangered species.

For more information about Hakalau Forest NWR, visit:

Protectors of the Aina – Hakalau Forest. Photo by Dean Masutomi


Planting trees for the future. Photo by Dean Masutomi

The Friends of Hakalau Forest is a group of hardworking, hands-on committed volunteers and donors who share a passion for supporting the Refuge. When you join the Friends group you become one of nature’s heroes on Hawai’i Island. Feel good about protecting our native forests, and critically endangered birds and plants.

Featured Species

I'iwi at Hakalau Forest. Photo by Dean Masutomi

The ‘i‘iwi is the most recognizable bird in the forest, with its scarlet feathers and bright red bill. It is very sensitive to avian malaria, though, and has recently been listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

©Tim Burr


A stroll to the koa cabin at Hakalau Forest, photo by J. B. Friday

Help establish an endowment to permanently protect the Refuge.

As of June 2022, over $750,000 has been donated to the Endowment.

Recent Hakalau Forest Research Papers

Rapid colonization of a Hawaiian restoration forest by a diverse avian community

Eben H. Paxton, Stephanie G. Yelenik, Tracy E. Borneman, Eli T. Rose, Richard J. Camp, Steve J. Kendall

Deforestation of tropical forests has led to widespread loss and extirpation of forest bird species around the world, including the Hawaiian Islands which have experienced a dramatic loss of forests over the last 200–800 years. Given the important role birds play in forest ecosystem functions via seed dispersal and pollination, a bird community’s response to forest restoration is an important measure of the success of such conservation actions. We evaluated the bird response to reforestation at an important bird sanctuary, Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, Hawai′i Island, using 26 years of bird count data. We show that most species from within the diverse avian community increased significantly, but species colonized the restoration forest at different rates. Distance from intact forest and time since restoration were both important predictors of colonization rate, interacting such that for most species it took more time to colonize areas farther from the intact forest. In addition, both forest cover and understory diversity helped to explain bird densities, but the effect varied among species, suggesting that different habitat requirements may help drive variation in colonization rates. This article provides the first detailed evaluation of how a diverse community of birds has responded to one of the largest, ongoing reforestation projects in Hawai′i.

Read the full 2017 paper here: Rapid colonization of a Hawaiian restoration forest by a diverse avian community


The mission of the Friends of Hakalau Forest (FOHF) is to support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts at the Hakalau and Kona Forest Units in terms of preserving, protecting and restoring the biological diversity at both locations, while simultaneously providing opportunity for wildlife-dependent recreation such as birding or photography, education, cultural experiences and scientific research.

Our goals are to:

  • Foster public understanding, enjoyment and conservation of the natural and cultural resources of the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
  • Provide volunteer assistance on important Refuge projects
  • Work with elected officials in support of the Refuge mission
  • Raise funds to help support the purposes and goals of the Refuge


Photos featured in this gallery are by our talented members. For more photos, visit the Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR Group on Flickr.