Avian majesty is reward for patience

Several years ago Rob Pacheco, president and founder of Hawaii island-based Hawaii Forest & Trail, took a van load of mainland doctors, all avid birders, to Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge. They were intent on spotting the akiapolaau, a bright yellow honeycreeper that was designated an endangered species in 1967. Although the group stayed out until dark, they were disappointed they weren’t able to see one.

The next day, Pacheco led a California family on their first-ever bird-watching excursion. As he was helping them step off lava rocks onto the fern-covered floor of a rain forest, he heard the song of an akiapolaau behind him. Turning quickly, he spotted the bird in a tree about 10 feet away.

“At the time it was the closest I had ever gotten to an akiapolaau,” Pacheco said. “It was so close that when it sang again, I could see its tongue! The grandmother in the group told me, ‘This is amazing! I’ve never seen a bird through binoculars before!’ I thought of the birders from the day before who really wanted to see an akiapolaau but didn’t — and here was a lady who probably would’ve been just as happy to be looking at a house sparrow. That’s how birding goes sometimes.”

“To see those species you need to be in habitats that can support them,”