Tropical, teaming with life, and full of warm water. On its face, Hawai’i seems like it would be a breeding ground for flamingos, but the bird and state aren’t associated with one another in the minds of Americans like flamingos and Florida. This begs the question: do flamingos live in Hawai’i?
The Aloha State is rich with wildlife. Its climate is excellent for many walks of life to thrive. Many aspects of the local environment would sound awfully appealing to your average flamingo, but the fabulous fowl is not native to the area.
Why Don’t Flamingos Live in Hawai’i?
You might think that Hawai’i has the perfect situation for flamingos to thrive, and it does possess a portion of what they need. But it doesn’t have everything.
Flamingos are big fans of water, and the Aloha State has no shortage of it. But not just any water will do for flamingos. The bird enjoys shallow lakes and lagoons filled with alkaline or saline contents. This is where the fowl can find a lot of the food it eats, plus the shallow depths allow flamingos to stop around on the floor to cajole their meals out from their hiding and resting places. In deeper water, like you are more apt to find in oceanic Hawai’i, that’s not possible.
Along with those sorts of water bodies come mud, a critical element for the animal’s success. It’s a good place for them to find tiny morsels to munch on, but perhaps even more important, mud makes for great nest-building material. Without a nest, the bird can’t reproduce, and that’s obviously untenable for sustaining a population.
The serene beaches, volcano-carved coasts, and abundance of leafy greens is ideal for a wide range of bird species. But the fabulous flamingo is not among them.
If Not Hawai’i, Then Where Do Flamingos Live?
The Caribbean, South America, the Mediterranean, Africa, and Southeast Asia are the most likely regions of the world to find flamingos in the wild. Where you are impacts which species of the bird you are liable to run into. For example, American flamingos hang out in the Caribbean, Central America, and portions of South America. Meanwhile, lesser flamingos make their homes in Africa, particularly in the east, southwest, and western segments of the continent. You can even catch Puna flamingos hundreds of feet above sea level in the high elevation of South America’s Andes Mountains, along with their Andean flamingo brethren.
These places all have the conditions that flamingos need to eat, reproduce, and thrive. Hawai’i might tick a few of the boxes on their checklist, but these regions have it all, and that’s what it takes to attract and sustain the fabulous fowl.
Where Can I See Flamingos in Hawai’i?
As we’ve established, you won’t see a flamingo in the wild in Hawai’i, but through the power of zoos, anything is possible. At least, seeing animals that you wouldn’t otherwise see in the area is possible.
The Honolulu Zoo has an exhibit that includes American and lesser flamingos. They are located in the African Savanna segment of the zoo, which isn’t entirely accurate for American flamingos, but it does fit the lesser flamingos who also call the habitat home, so we’ll let it slide.
Otherwise, private bird sanctuaries may have them, but there is no guarantee of that, especially because flamingos are not native to the islands. Some resorts and hotels have them on the premises, too, but you definitely should not book a stay in Hawai'i with the expectation that flamingos will be outside your door. Really, the Honolulu Zoo is your best bet if you’re in Hawai’i and need your flamingo fix.
What Animals Could I See in the Wild in Hawai’i?
Many. But that’s not a good enough answer. I can’t list them all, but I can tell you about some of the most prominent and interesting ones. Sure, they’re nowhere near as awesome as flamingos - come on, nothing ever could be - but all of the world's living things help it go. If you're a flamingo fanatic, you might love animals and nature as a whole, too!
The nene is the official state bird of Hawai’i. Also known as the Hawaiian goose, these guys can be found roaming around the islands of Maui, Molokai, Hawai’i, Oahu, and Kaua’i, though not as many of them as conservationists would like. The nene is categorized as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List Ranking, federally listed as threatened, and otherwise treated as an endangered species by several other similar groups. It is the rarest species of goose in the world.
One of the more beautiful creatures that can be found in Hawai’i is the hawksbill sea turtle. Its beauty has been its bane, though, as their entrancing shells make for wonderful additions to art and other collections. But it’s not so wonderful for the turtles - they were nearly extinct thanks to hunters pining for their protective coverings. The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) has banned the international sale of any turtle product, which has helped but of course not entirely eliminated the practice. Hawksbill sea turtles are not exclusive to the Aloha State, but it is the only place in the United States to find the animal. Every year, a handful of females have their offspring on select beaches on the islands of Hawai’i and Molokai.
A variety of dolphin species can be found in Hawaiian waters, but none are more common than the spinner dolphin. Usually about 7 feet long and roughly 170 pounds, these creatures can be seen in big pods in the open ocean, but they also enjoy the less rambunctious waters that can be found in bays and lagoons around the Hawaiian islands. Dolphins have long been important in Hawaiian culture and remain one of the more visible symbols within the state. There are many opportunities across Hawai’i to swim with these aquatic animals, so if getting up close and personal with dolphins is on your wishlist, consider the Aloha State.
If witnessing wildlife in its natural habitat is something you love, then consider Hawai’i - it certainly ranks as one of the best states in America to do it, and it’s unlike any other climate the country has to offer!