Tracking Oahu's wild parrots

Nick Kalodimos
Nick Kalodimos

By Howard Dashefsky - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The next time you take a stroll through Kapiolani Park, or around the Diamond Head area, keep an eye out for  the red-masked parakeet.  A small, colorful parrot native to the dry forests of coastal Ecuador and Peru where kiawe is plentiful.  As a result, the birds feel right at home here on oahu.

"The non-native plant species are the richest food source for them" said wildlife researcher Nick Kalodimos. "So they choose what's easiest to get at, and what provides the most reward for their effort."

Kalodimos is a University of Hawaii PhD student who has dedicated years studying the birds, and their habits.  Armed with both federal and state permits, he's even managed to catch and collar the elusive birds, allowing him to track their movements. He says they always remain within the range of Kapiolani park and Aina Haina.

"Right now there's about 54 birds in the flock, the population had a maximum of 50-60 but it seems to have decreased, over the last couple years" said Kalodimos.

"They can be observed and counted on a daily basis and monitored quite effectively that way. as long as the roof side is not disturbed, they'll generally come back to the same sight as long as they've existed on this island."

Kalodimos says while the parrots may be fun to enjoy in the wild, you don't want to even think about catching one of these birds on your own.

"Wild parrots make horrible pets, that's probably one reason why you see so many, they were released back in the 80's because they were very difficult to deal with, noisy, they bit."

But while they would prove to be a pesky pet, Kalodimos says his studies have shown these particular parakeets  have no negative effect on our surroundings.

"This population of parakeets stays in urban areas so it has no negative impact to the environment, they're not attacking other birds or eating native species."

The best time to spot the birds is in the early morning, and late afternoon when they are most active.