Saddle Road Birding – Introduction

Saddle Road Birding & Nature Activities

Apapane adult

Introduction – (1 meg background bird songs for IE users may take a little time to load)

In the early Spring of this year (2006), a couple of my Texas friends, Phil and Teresa, introduced me to outdoor birding. What fun! Since Hawaii generally has nice weather most of the year and rainforests with interesting birds and plants are only 30 minutes or less from Hilo, it seems like a natural direction for me to pursue as I slow down in my ukulele making endeavors.


From our kitchen window we can see Mauna Kea and a goodly portion of the saddle area between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. With backpack and hiking gear mostly at the ready, many lovely days beckon the Hawaii birder to head mountainwards as the sun begins to illuminate these mountain slopes.


Using a couple of different geography maps, I’ve plotted annual rainfall (blurry red) and elevation versus the Saddle Road mile markers (above). At zero (Hilo) there’s about 150 inches of rain per year and it actually gets more rainy as you go uphill. But by the time you reach the 15 mile marker things have tapered off considerably and after the 20 mile marker you’re down to about 35 inches of rain per year or about a tenth of an inch of rain per day – which happens mostly at night. So that’s my logic for focusing on the 15 to 30 mile marker region of Saddle Road for birding.

There has been a tremendous improvement in the quality of Saddle Road between the 20 and ~35 mile markers. Even the road from Hilo to the 20 mile marker has been mostly repaved although it is still dangerous because of its twists, turns and inclement weather patterns in the rainfall maximum. A three lane highway has replaced the sometimes 1 1/2 lane former road. Avoid the temptation to speed; the road is regularly patrolled by highly motivated, unmarked patrol cars…

Apapane adult

Herein is a beginning listing of links I’ve found useful to my birding education in Hawaii in general and the Saddle Road area in particular. It is interesting that none of the county, state or federal agencies link to one another, but then…

Some Saddle Road Birding Trails between Hilo and Kona (link)

HI Elepaio

Using the National Geographic software program Topo! and data collected on each trail with my Garmin 72 GPS, I will try to give more accurate descriptions of the trails as well as traveling conditions for different times of the year.

Songs, Calls and Links to Natural History for Several Endemic Rainforest Birds (link)

Hawaii Amakihi

In this section I begin to gather information regarding different endemic bird species which inhabit the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa rainforests on both sides of Saddle Road.