Hawaii’s official State bird is the Hawaiian Goose, but on Kauai, everyone jokes that the “official” birds of the Garden Island are really Kauai’s wild chicken. They greet you as soon as you arrive at the airport. They’re on the beach, in the park, and at the local Walmart. They will will wake you up at 3 in the morning. They can be seen roaming no matter where on the island you go. And Kauai’s wild chicken population is only exploding.
The bird boom on Kauai
Damaging winds during Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992 destroyed many chicken coops, leaving the noisy critters wandering the streets. Couple that with the island’s lack of predatory mongoose to ease the population growth, and you have a bird boom on your hands.
Officials in both the Kauai County Planning Department and the Office of Economic Development say that the birds are a nuisance, and the Kauai Visitors Bureau gets complaints from people who think they’re going there for peace and quiet. Yet many tourists actually appear to like the feral fowl, and love to be photographed with them.
A chicken niche
Many Kauai businesspeople have used the over-abundance and popularity of the feral animals to their advantage. In many island marketplaces you can find stores that sell apparel emblazoned with the bird. At the airport, two quarters and a penny in a machine produces a flattened copper keepsake with a rooster on its face.
Shop owners will tell you that kitschy souvenirs such as chicken-themed coffee mugs, T-shirts printed with Kauai’s “official” bird, and stuffed roosters that crow fly off the shelves, pumping money into the local economy.
And let’s be honest, many tourists get a kick out of Kauai’s wild chickens and consider them part of the island’s charm, even if they suffer from crow-induced insomnia. I would guess 99.9% of tourists snap at least one photo of a feral rooster, or a wild hen with her brood of baby chicks. After all, who can really resist the opportunity to capture the beauty of the multi-colored iridescent feathers of this Hawaiian bird.