Featured Species

There is a great deal of endemism within the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Birds such as the koloa pōhaka (Laysan Duck), ʻekupuʻu (Laysan Finch), palihoa (Nihoa Millerbird) are found nowhere else and as a result are at an increased risk for extinction.  

Millions of central Pacific seabirds congregate on the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge to breed. They nest on beaches, cliff faces, and level ground. No place is really seabird-free during the nesting season. For some species, it is their only breeding site. Although a few of the islands (notably Kauō  or Laysan Island) were decimated by introduced mammals, many of the islets and atolls have been relatively untouched by humans. The importance of seabirds was recognized with the refuge's establishment at the turn of the century. Since then, protection and active management have resulted in large, diverse, and relatively intact seabird populations. 

Four protected, endangered land bird species are found within the Refuge. Three passerines - the ʻekupuʻu (laysan finch), found on Kauō (Laysan Island) and Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll), and the palihoa (nihoa finch) and the ulūlu (nihoa millerbird), which are endemic to the island of Nihoa. One waterfowl species, the koloa pōhaka (laysan duck) was once found throughout the archipelago, but until a successful translocation attempt, they were only found on Laysan Island.  

The `Ilio holo I ka uaua (hawaiian monk seal) is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world and resides throughout the Refuge. Other marine mammals include two species of dolphin, the nai'a (spinner and Bottlenose dolphins), the palaoa  (sperm whale), a toothed whale, as well as four species of baleen whales (Mysticetes), the kuapio kohola (Humpback whale) being the only mysticete sighted with any level of regularity. 

Honu (Marine turtles) that are known to occur in the Refuge are the Hawaiian population of the green turtle and hawksbill, loggerhead, and leatherback turtles. While there are no records of the threatened olive ridley within the waters, their wide distribution throughout the tropical Pacific makes it likely that they do sometimes occur there. Green and loggerhead sea turtles are listed as threatened species; the hawksbill and leatherback turtles are listed as endangered species.