A Guide to the Creatures of Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea's harsh environment seems an unlikely place for any animal to choose to call home. However, a wide variety of bird species, grazing ungulates and many bugs and insects can be found on Mauna Kea's upper slopes, one of the driest climates in the world. Below are the beginnings of our documentation of these creatures. More soon to come!

Chukar, Chukker, Chukar Partridge, Red Legged Partridge

Alectoris chukar, more commonly known simply as chukar, is in the Phasianidae or pheasant family. The birds are originally native to southern Eurasia, and are the national bird of Pakistan. The name Chukar comes from the Urdu, Chakhoor. In Indian mythology the Chukar is believed to be in love with the moon and thought to be constantly looking at it.... more

Domestic Cow

In 1793 and again in 1794 Captain George Vancouver introduced the first beef cattle to Hawai'i Island – 4 males and 8 females. King Kamehameha I placed a kapu or taboo on the hunting of the feral cattle, which remained in place until 1830. By this time the animals had become so numerous and such a nuisance to the native population, that it became... more

Erckel’s Francolin

The Erckel's Francolin, or Francolinus erckelii, is a type of partridge in the Phasianidae family. It's native to the area around Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, where it is now endangered. The birds prefer grassy or brushy areas, and can live anywhere from sea level up to about the elevation of the Visitor Information Station on Mauna Kea at the... more

Ladybug, Ladybird

The ladybug or ladybird as it is also known is in the genus Coccinellidae of the beetle family. There are literally thousands of species of ladybugs in the world, with over 400 in North America alone. Ladybugs usually range from 4 to 8 millimeters in length, but they can be as small as 1 millimeter or as big as 10 millimeters. Ladybugs are... more

Nene, Nene Goose

The Nene is Hawai'i's state bird. It is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, and although its numbers have made a remarkable recovery in recent years, the Nene is still considered an endangered species. Please be especially careful when driving on the Mauna Kea Access Road, below the Visitor Information Station, as Nene are often present on or near the... more

Wekiu Bug

The alpine habitat on Mauna Kea represents one of the most extreme environments in the Hawaiian Islands .  Daily temperature fluctuations between 116ºF and 25ºF, winter snow pack, and virtually no plant life suggests lifelessness.  However, there are creatures that are specialized to live here. One of the most interesting Hawaiian endemic... more

Wolf Spider

Spiders of the genus Lycosa, also known as wolf spiders, are fairly common on Mauna Kea all the way up to the 13,796' (4206m) summit of the mountain. Invertebrate surveys at the summit have discovered a large (up to 2 cm body length), black wolf spider (Lycosa sp.). This wolf spider is thought to be endemic to the Hawaiian Islands , although its... more


Free Nightly Stargazing

FREE Nightly Stargazing & Star Tours

Open to everyone! Every night of the year from 6pm - 10pm MKVIS conducts star tours and operates several telescopes for public viewing by our knowledgeable guides.
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Escorted Summit Tours

Every Sat. & Sun. Bring your 4WD vehicle and join our free summit tour caravan. Tours will go into at least one of the observatories.
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