A-z - Animals

animals of hawaii

Despite its small size, Hawaii is one of the four most ecologically diverse states in the United States, the others being California, Texas and Alabama. It is estimated that more than 21,000 species have been recorded in the Hawaiian rainforest, surrounding oceans and elsewhere.

Hawaii's most famous animals are manta rays, chameleons, dolphins, geckos, whales and tiger sharks.

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hawaii state official animal

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Hawaii is known for its unique culture and beautiful scenery, but did you know it also has an official animal? From the beautiful and graceful Hawaiian monk seal to the mighty nēnē, the state's animals represent the island's natural beauty and diversity.

In this section, we'll explore the fascinating history and characteristics of the state's animals and learn why they're so important to the people and land of Hawaii.

As such an environmental hotspot, it's no surprise that Hawaii is home to many of its national animals.

Official National Bird of Hawaii: Nene

Nene ( Branta sandvicensis ) is also known as the Hawaiian goose. Although it is thought to have evolved from the Canada goose, the Nene is a different species, found only in Hawaii, Kauai, Molokai, Maui, and Oahu. It is characterized by a black head, white and black striped neck, and an alternating pattern of brown and white feathers.

The official national bird of Hawaii is the nēnē, also known as the Hawaiian goose. This unique bird is not only a symbol of the state's natural beauty and diversity, but also a testament to the power of conservation and conservation efforts.

The official IUCN status of this animal is fragile.

nene - hawaiian goose - standing on the grass

©Agami Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com website

Hawaii's official fish: Humuhumunukunukuapua`a

The official fish of Hawaii is the Humuhumunukunukuapua`a ( Rhinecanthus rectangulus ), also known as the Hawaiian triggerfish or reef triggerfish. A name almost as unique as the fish itself. The colorful and unique fish is not only a symbol of the state's marine ecosystem, but also a beloved cultural icon that has inspired music, art and even the state's license plate.

This colorful fish has blue lips, a diagonal black mark on the side and a yellow stripe on the back. They can grow to about 12 inches long and can be quite aggressive. There have even been reports of fish biting nearby swimmers. After a brief lapse in 1990 as the state's official fish, it was permanently restored by the Governor in 2006.

Humuhumunukunukuapua'a on white background

©Melissa Brandes/Shutterstock.com

Hawaii's Official Mammal: Hawaiian Monk Seal

The Hawaiian monk seal ( Neomonachus schauinslandi ) is the official mammal of Hawaii. It's technically one of two official mammals, but the other is a marine mammal. Its original name was ʻIlio-holo-i-ka-uaua, which means "dog that runs in rough water". The endangered Hawaiian monk seal is native to the Hawaii Island region. They are the only native seals in the area.

The Hawaiian monk seal is a critically endangered marine mammal endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. With an estimated population of more than 1,100 individuals, the Hawaiian monk seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world.

Known for their distinctive appearance, these seals have sleek black or dark brown coats and large, soulful eyes. They are also known for their docile and inquisitive nature, making them popular subjects for photographers and marine wildlife enthusiasts.

Hawaiian monk seal sleeping on the sand next to the coral

©Evan Austen/Shutterstock.com

Hawaii's Official Aquatic Mammal: The Humpback Whale

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is officially recognized as Hawaii's official aquatic mammal, but it's also often considered the official statewide animal. Given the island's deep connection to the ocean and associated species, it's easy to see why.

The humpback has high cultural significance and appears on many Hawaiian symbols, including the trade dollar. Whales are believed to be among the animals that aumakua , or family ancestors, can shape and appear in visions or dreams to provide guidance.

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Humpback whale swimming with calf
Humpback whale swimming with calf

Where to Find Hawaii's Top Wildlife

To find many of Hawaii's most popular wildlife, you'll need to take an official wildlife tour. If you take an ocean tour, you might see monk seals, humpback whales, manta rays, sharks and dolphins.

If you put on your snorkeling gear and stick to the shallow waters and the coral around the island, you might see giant turtles and beautiful reefs.

If you stick to land or the Hawaiian rainforest, you might catch a glimpse of chameleons and bald bats (Hawaii's only native land mammals), mongooses and nineys.

Recommended wildlife viewing locations include:

  • Yao Valley
  • Makena State Park
  • Diamond Head State Park
  • Waimea Canyon State Park
  • Kailua-Kona (dive site)
  • Black Rock (dive site)
  • Molokini Wall (diving site)

The Most Dangerous Animals in Hawaii Today

Hawaii is generally free of dangerous wildlife and poisonous creatures, making it an ideal ecotourism destination. However, there are still some animals to avoid when traveling there.

Although Hawaii is technically snake-free, some sea snakes do exist, such as the yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus). There are also tiger sharks, great white sharks and other sharks in the offshore waters around the island. While the likelihood of a shark attack is extremely low, it can easily be fatal. Keep in mind that since 1828, Hawaii has recorded a total of 11 shark deaths, almost all around Maui.

There are also Conidae, cone-shaped snails that contain toxins that are fatal to humans. This creature feeds on small fish and marine worms. Finally, black widow (Latrodectus Mactans) spiders can also be found on the island, although they are hardly fatal.

endangered animals in hawaii

Turtle attacked by tiger shark
Sea turtles are an endangered species in Hawaii.

©Achimdiver/Shutterstock.com

Endangered animals in Hawaii include:

  • Nene Goose – Official State Bird of Hawaii
  • Oahu Tree Snail – A colorful snail with only 100 known subspecies in existence . Often threatened by chameleons as predators.
  • Hawaiian Monk Seal – Hawaii's only native seal
  • Hawaiian gray bat – one of only two native mammals in Hawaii
  • Sea Turtles – Highly sensitive to pollution and habitat destruction. Getting close can result in a hefty fine.
  • Crested Bee – Large bird of Maui. Today, it is estimated that only 3,800 remain.
  • Hawaiian Moorhen – a deep charcoal black bird with a distinctive bright red beak
  • The Hawaiian Eagle – a solitary bird of prey currently thought to breed only on the Big Island

Below you can find a full list of Hawaiian animals. We are currently tracking 173 animals in the US (Hawaii) and growing every day!

The largest animals found in Hawaii

© Imagine Earth Photography/Shutterstock.com

Known for its breathtaking natural beauty and unique ecosystems, Hawaii is home to a variety of flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world. Of the many fascinating creatures that inhabit the islands, the most impressive are some of the largest found in Hawaii.

From giant whales to gigantic sea turtles, these creatures inspire awe and curiosity among tourists and locals alike. Let's take a closer look at the largest animals found in Hawaii, explore their characteristics, behavior, and habitat, and learn what makes them so special.

The following are the large animals found in Hawaii:

  • Humpback whales
  • green turtle
  • spinner dolphin
  • manta ray
  • false killer whale
  • tiger shark
  • Hawaiian Monk Seal

rarest animal in hawaii

Hawaii is known for its beautiful beaches, lush rainforests and unique wildlife. However, many animal species native to Hawaii are now endangered or threatened due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other human activities.

Let's explore some of Hawaii's rarest animals:

  • Hawaiian Monk Seal: The Hawaiian monk seal is a critically endangered seal species found only in Hawaii. Populations of these seals have been declining for decades due to hunting, disease and habitat loss. Today, there are estimated to be fewer than 1,400 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild.
  • Hawaiian Gray Bat: The Hawaiian gray bat is a unique species of bat found only in Hawaii. It is the only land mammal native to Hawaii and is listed as endangered due to habitat loss and the impact of pesticides on its prey. The Hawaiian bald bat is one of the rarest bat species in the world, with an estimated population of fewer than 1,000 individuals.
  • Nene goose: Nene goose, also known as Hawaiian goose, is the state bird of Hawaii and is an endangered species. The number of these geese was once reduced to as few as 30 individuals, but conservation efforts have helped increase the number to around 3,000. Habitat loss, hunting and predation by exotic species continue to threaten the survival of the Nene goose.
  • Hawaiian Crow: The Hawaiian Crow, also known as Arara, is a critically endangered species of crow found only in Hawaii. Populations of these crows have declined dramatically due to habitat loss, disease and predation by exotic species. Today, there are believed to be fewer than 200 Hawaiian crows left in the wild.
  • Hawaiian Smiley Spider: The Hawaiian Smiley Spider is a unique and colorful spider found only in Hawaii. It is one of the rarest spiders in the world and is listed as Vulnerable due to habitat loss and the effects of climate change. Smiley spiders are named for the distinctive pattern of smiling faces on their abdomens.
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In conclusion, Hawaii is home to a wide variety of animal species, but many animals are now endangered or threatened by human activity.

hawaiian snake

No native snakes are found in Hawaii. Because the Hawaiian ecosystem consists of species adapted to an environment without snakes, their survival on the island could have disastrous effects on native wildlife. One species of snake is widespread in Hawaii, but it is a harmless species called the Brahman blind snake, which is only 6 inches long and preys on insects such as ants.

Invasive species such as pythons, garter snakes and ball pythons have limited numbers in Hawaii. Also, be aware that sea snakes may be found in the waters around the islands, but there are no records of anyone being attacked by a sea snake in the state.

Two species of ticks are found in Hawaii; the brown dog tick and the acanthus ear tick.

Native Hawaiian Plants and Climate

When you picture Hawaii, you picture lush, verdant plant life and brightly colored flowers. Different types of plants and trees grow in this western state. Some of these native plants include pua kala, kou, hinahina and blue morning glory.

Located in the tropics, Hawaii is known for its year-round warm climate. The state really only has two seasons – summer (May-October) and winter (October-April). The monthly average temperatures are as follows:

moon Average High (°F) Average Low (°F)
January 79.2 65.9
February 79.3 66.3
to march 80.0 67.2
April 81.1 68.3
possible 82.5 69.7
June 84.1 71.5
July 85.5 72.6
August 85.9 73.0
September 85.0 72.4
October 83.4 71.3
November 81.4 69.6
December 79.6 67.4

Believe it or not, temperatures as low as 8°F have been recorded in Hawaii before, despite the warm temperatures here!

hawaiian flag

waving hawaiian flag
The Hawaiian flag, also known as "Ka Hae Hawaiʻi" in Hawaiian, has a unique design that reflects the history and culture of the Hawaiian Islands.

© iStock.com/Andrea Izzotti

The Hawaiian flag, also known as "Ka Hae Hawaiʻi" in Hawaiian, has a unique design that reflects the history and culture of the Hawaiian Islands. The flag is composed of eight stripes of white, red and blue, representing the eight main islands of Hawaii, and the Union Jack of the United Kingdom in the upper left corner, paying tribute to the period of British influence on Hawaii in the 19th century.

At the center of the flag is the Royal Hawaiian Coat of Arms, consisting of a shield with a cross and eight alternating white triangles representing the eight islands, with red representing the blood of warriors.

The current design of the Hawaiian flag was originally designed in 1816 by King Kamehameha I, who attempted to unite the islands under one flag. At the time, the national flag consisted only of the Union Jack in the corner and the red and white stripes.

The flag of Hawaii has eight horizontal stripes, representing the eight main islands. The red stripes represent the Hawaiian gods, the white stripes represent truth, and the blue stripes represent the surrounding ocean. Another theory holds that red, white and blue represent Hawaii's history with England, the United States and France. Hawaii is the only U.S. state that includes another country's flag in its flag.

endangered animals in hawaii

Hawaii is home to more than 483 endangered species. From the Anthricinan yellow-faced wasp to the Pacific Hawaiian damselfly, there is an abundance of unique and beautiful animals whose numbers are rapidly dwindling. Most of these animals are endangered due to human disturbance. These disturbances include habitat destruction from development and urbanization of the coastal areas they inhabit.

read:

  • Best Places to Swim in Hawaii: Lakes, Rivers, and More
  • An extinct animal that lived in Hawaii.
  • Stunning waterfalls in Oahu, Hawaii.
  • The best national parks in Hawaii.
  • The best bird watching spots in Hawaii.
  • Best dog park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • The best waterfall in Maui, Hawaii.
  • Hawaii's top waterfalls.
  • Incredible waterfalls in Kauai, Hawaii.
  • The beach with the most shark attacks on Maui, Hawaii.
  • The longest bike trail in Hawaii.
  • Native Hawaiian Plants

hawaiian animals

albatross

Largest wingspan of any bird in the world!

Ant

First evolved 100 million years ago!

armadillo

Can be curled into a tough protective ball!

bison

The extinct ancestor of all domestic cattle!

barn owl

Can be found all over the world!

bat

Detect prey using echolocation!

beans

Bea-Tzu has a fast growing coat

Bulldog

The perfect companion for cats!

Bear

There are 8 different species!

beetle

There are more than 350,000 different species

bird

Not all birds can fly!

black witch moth

Some folklore associates black witch moths with bad luck (even death!), while others associate them with good luck.

Mumbai

Be bred to look like a black panther!

Butterfly

There are thought to be as many as 17,500 species!

cactus moth

Cactus moths can wreak havoc on cacti where there are no natural enemies.

camel cricket

Camel crickets found in the United States are light brown in color. They also have black stripes all over their bodies.

cat

First domesticated by the ancient Egyptians!

catfish

There are almost 3000 different species!

chicken

First domesticated over 10,000 years ago!

raccoon

Discover in dense forests and humid jungles!

cockroach

About 300 million years ago!

corn earworm

Corn earworms can eat entire crops in just days

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cougar

North America's second largest cat

the cow

There are nearly 1.5 billion in the world!

Coyotes

AKA Prairie Wolf!

Crab

There are 93 different crab groups

crab spider

Crab spiders can mimic ants or guano

crane

Many are critically endangered species!

Crocodile

Not much has changed in 200 million years!

deer

There are about 40 different species!

dog

The first domestication in Southeast Asia!

donkey

First domesticated 5000 years ago!

Doso

Doxles have long, floppy ears

dragon eel

Dragon eels have two jaws and two sets of sharp teeth

Duck

Rows and rows of little plates lined the teeth!

dung beetle

Dung beetles can push objects many times their own weight

eagle

Has extraordinary eyesight!

earwig

There are almost 2000 different species!

eel

Eels can grow from a few inches to 13 feet!

falcon

The fastest creature on earth!

flea

Adult fleas can jump 7 inches in the air

fly

There are over 240,000 different species!

fox

Only 12 Species Are Considered "True Foxes"

frog

There are about 7,000 different species!

galapagos shark

Galapagos sharks cannibalize each other and sometimes eat juveniles, so juveniles stay away from adults in shallow water.

Gal

Can grow to more than 3m long!

Monster lizard

This lizard's tail doubles as a fat storage facility!

firefly

Discover habitats in dense woodlands and caves!

Goose

There are 29 different species!

Gophers

They dig massive tunnel networks!

hamster

Ability to run backwards as fast as forwards!

Hare

Can reach speeds over 50 mph!

Hawaiian Monk Seal

The Hawaiian name is "Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua", which means "dog that runs in choppy waters".

heron

Inhabit wetlands all over the world!

Himalayas

Also known as Colorpoint Persian!

gray bat

Gray bats travel hundreds of miles south for winter

bee

There are only 8 recognized species!

horse

Has evolved over 50 million years!

Humanity

Believed to have originated 200,000 years ago!

insect

There are an estimated 30 million species!

Javanese

Very similar characteristics to Siamese cats!

Kauai 'Ō'ō

Calls can be heard a quarter of a mile away

kingfisher

Inhabit wetlands and woodlands around the world!

ladybug

There are more than 5,000 species in the world!

Liger

Offspring of lion and tiger parents!

lizard

There are approximately 5,000 different species!

lynx

Live in caves under rocks and ledges!

maine coon

Folklore says it's half cat, half raccoon!

masked angelfish

All masked angelfish are females at some point after sexual maturity, at which point some become males.

ephemera

There are 2,500 known species worldwide!

whitefly

They have a symbiotic relationship with ants.

mole

Feeds mainly on earthworms!

bastard

Characteristic of two or more breeds!

hen

Feed on aquatic insects and water spiders!

moth

There are 250,000 different species!

mouse

Found on every continent on Earth!

mule

Offspring of horse and donkey parents!

newt

Ability to regenerate lost or damaged limbs!

Oleander Hawkmoth

Oleander hawkmoth caterpillars feed on the leaves of oleander, a highly poisonous plant to which they are immune.

opossum

Considered immune to certain snake venoms!

Celestial Weaver

Females are about four times the size of males

otter

There are 13 different species in the world

owl

The owl's head can rotate about 270 degrees

Leopard

Prefer hunting at night than during the day!

peacock bass

Peacock bass are known for their aggressive behavior and predatory instincts, making them challenging targets for sport fishermen.

pheasant

Females lay 8 to 12 eggs per clutch!

pig

Thought to have been domesticated as early as 9000 BC!

pika

Found in mountains and rocky areas

Polyphemus moth

The Polyphemus moth does not and cannot eat unless it is a caterpillar!

porcupine

There are 30 different species worldwide!

prairie rattlesnake

The attack distance of a prairie rattlesnake is 2/3 of its body length.

Puffin

Can stay in water for up to 2 minutes!

Puma

The hind legs are longer than the front legs!

quail

Inhabit woodlands and forest areas around the world!

rabbit

There are over 300 different species!

raccoon

We all know to wash food before eating!

mouse

Omnivore that eats everything!

rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes may have evolved rattlesnakes to warn bison to stay away from them.

Red Ear Slider

Sliders spend a lot of time basking in the sun. As cold-blooded animals, they need sunlight for warmth.

red wolf

There are only 17-19 in the wild!

robin

There are over 45 species in Australia alone!

Rodents

Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world and love to be in and around water. Because of this, the Catholic Church in South America recognizes it as a fish, allowing it to be eaten during Lent and First Friday.

Rooster

Will mate with the whole flock!

scorpion

There are approximately 2,000 known species!

seahorse

Males can have up to 1000 offspring!

sheep

There are around 35 million of them in the English countryside!

shrimp

There are 2,000 different species worldwide!

skunk

Also known as the smelly cat!

snails

There are almost 1000 different species!

snake

There are approximately 4,000 known species worldwide

snorkeling

Snorkies are known for their fun, catchy antics.

snow eel

Snow eels have two lower jaws to help them swallow food.

sparrow

There are 140 different species!

squirrel

Small Rodents Found in Woodlands Around the World!

swan

The population is affected by pollution!

termite

Their mounds can be as high as 9 meters!

Torquay

The Torkie is alert and very vocal, so it makes a great watchdog.

vulture

There are 30 different species worldwide!

wasp

There are approximately 75,000 recognized species!

weasel

The smallest carnivorous mammal in the world!

Wolf

Thoughts date back 300,000 years!

Wolverine

Unleash a rich musk for defense!

Ioranians

These dogs are very intelligent and great for taking care of children.

zebra dog

Offspring of zebra and horse parents!

List of Hawaiian Animals

about the author


My name is Rebecca and I have been a professional freelancer for nearly ten years. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessed with cats and pet mice.

Hawaiian Animals FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How old are the Hawaiian Islands?

The oldest island in Hawaii is Kauai, dating back about 5.1 million years. The islands are forming as the Pacific plate moves about 4 inches per year across hotspots of magma that form volcanoes, breaking through the surface as it continues to move at a slow pace. The newest island is Big Island, formed about 700,000 years ago. Over time, islands would continue to form east of the Big Island, with the next island called Loihi. It is expected to break the ocean's surface within 10,000 to 100,00 years.

What is the largest shark in Hawaii?

The largest shark in Hawaiian waters is the whale shark. In addition to whale sharks, Hawaii is home to great whites, megamouths, tiger sharks and other large species.