Hawaiian Islands Wildlife

Marine Animals

Of the world’s 88 species of cetaceans, 24 have been seen in Hawaii. Traveling 3,000 miles in less than two-months, these gentle giants migrate from Alaska to breed and birth in the islands’ warm and shallow waters. Their annual migration occurs December through April, with the peak between January and March.

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Spinner Dolphins

Yes, they really do spin—as many as seven rotations outside of the water and up to ten feet high. Acrobatic spinner dolphins also do leaps and mid-air somersaults. Why all the activity? Scientists believe the dolphins play to communicate with each other through echolocation, a type of hearing that helps them locate surrounding objects or regroup, into groups of up to 1,000, through sound. Even slapping the surface of water lets other dolphins know food, or danger, is nearby. Spinner dolphins also move just for fun. They’re known to approach boats and ride on the bow for up to 30 minutes!

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Giant Pacific Manta rays

Hawaii’s Giant Pacific Manta rays are the largest ray with a wingspan as long as 29 feet, spreading out like a cape when they swim. Their smooth skin is coated with a protective mucous that helps them glide aerodynamically through water. But please refrain from touching these gentle creatures on your night dive—doing so may remove this coating and make them more vulnerable to disease.

Land Animals & Birds

The Hawaiian archipelago is over 2,500 miles from any other landmass. Due in part to this remote location, there are no snakes on the islands and only two native mammals in Hawaii—the hoary bat and the Hawaiian monk seal. More common to see are birds or introduced critters of herptile or mammal variety.

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Nene (Hawaiian goose, the official state bird)

Who wouldn’t want to relocate from Canada to Hawaii? The Nene was one of the first to make the trip. Now Hawaii’s state bird, the Nene descended from the Canadian goose about 500,000 years ago. Their feet aren’t as webbed as other geese and they have longer toes, making it easier for them to cross rocky surfaces and lava. Nene also have shorter, weaker wings for shorter flights.