If you decide to visit the Haleakalā National Park before or after your volcano bike tour there are so many amazing things to see! Sunrise and sunset boasts spectacular views of the sun rising or setting with the clouds at the peak of this dormant volcano. Then, there’s the Haleakalā Crater and its unique cinder landscape that will make you feel as if you’re on another world.
In the summit area, as well as in the entire Haleakalā National Park, there is some incredible wildlife to see. The park is noted for having a number of unique endangered species. So to better prepare you for your day exploring Haleakalā, we’ve gathered some information from the National Park Service about the wildlife you’ll see if you decide to enter the park on the same day you enjoy the Haleakalā downhill bike ride. Keep in mind if you go after your bike ride for sunset you will have more daylight and time to hike, take photographs and search for wildlife than you will during sunrise. If you opt for sunrise, you will need to leave the park by 7:30am at the latest to be at our bike shop in Paia in time for your downhill bike ride.
Hawaiian Goose – Nēnē
World’s rarest goose, the nēnē
You will only see the nēnē in Hawaii. As the world’s rarest goose, the wild nēnē nests on Haleakalā and, as the NPS noted, may fly around neighborhoods on Maui and Moloka’i. The last survivor of several other endemic geese, the nēnē is an endangered species and is the State Bird of Hawaii.
The nēnē has strong feet, short wings, padded toes, and reduced webbing which helps them walk over the rough terrain of the Haleakalā volcano. Nēnē often mate for life and at 14 weeks old, the young goslings can fly and join the rest of the flock.
Although park biologists protect “the island’s most noticeable large native animal,” they often travel through roadways and parking lots where they’re sometimes killed by cars. Thus, there are often warnings alerting motorists to watch out for the nēnē.
Of course, to protect the nēnē, the NPS urges visitors to “keep them wild” by not giving them any food or water, not getting too close to the nēnē, and keeping pets away from these birds.
Hawaiian Petrel – ‘Ua’u
The ‘ua’u are an endangered species of migratory seabirds. According to the NPS, their largest known nesting colony is at the top of Haleakalā, so look out for these birds at the summit of Haleakalā.
This is a NPS photo of ʻUaʻu at 9000 ft. elevation on Haleakalā.
At 16 inches long, these seabirds have a three-foot wingspan and are dark grey on top and white underneath. The young ‘ua’u reportedly leave their nests for the first time in November and fly out to the ocean at night in search of food. But sometimes these seabirds can sadly become grounded.
“They fly over land at night and are believed to navigate by stars. These and other seabirds that fly at night sometimes become confused by lights. The seabirds fly around the lights, become tired and fall to the ground,” the NPS noted.
On the NPS website, there are instructions for what to do if you find a grounded seabird. These birds, the NPS said, also make a variety of calls, one sounding just like its name: oo-AH-oo. So if you hear this sound on your Haleakalā sunrise volcano tour, it may be an ‘ua’u.
With the variety of climates and elevations on Haleakalā comes a variety of unique plant life.
“Over 850 species of plants are found within the bounds of Haleakalā National Park. Of these, over 400 species are native, or arrived without human intervention; over 300 species are endemic to Hawai’i, found only in the islands,” the NPS noted.
The silversword is one of the unique endemic species that calls Haleakalā home. Living among the desert cinder landscape of the Haleakalā Crater and Summit area, silverswords are noted by the silvery hairs on their sword-like succulent leaves and their low-growing rosette. They can live up to 90 years.
If you see a flowering silversword on your visit in Haleakalā National park, this is a truly a unique experience as the silversword only flowers once and then dies soon after.
The silversword is one of the many rare and unique plants that you can see on your bike tour of Haleakalā, many of which can only be seen in Hawaii.
The NPS has downloadable guides you can take along to help you identify these distinctive plants and bird species.
Sunrise vs sunset?
Some people ask us which is better to do. For many decades and still to this day people don’t even know you can go into the park on your own and that you can also go up for sunset. Here are a couple articles that will help you decide which is best for your family/group:
- Here is why we suggest you think twice before booking a sunrise bike tour.
- Should we see the Haleakala sunrise or sunset?
(First photo by Eric Chan)