Wild Birds of Horizon: Part I Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

Kalij pheasant Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Kalij pheasants

It’s not just domesticated animals you’ll see at Horizon Guest House. We have abundant wild bird life here on the property and in this post, part I of II, we’ll feature some of our favorites.

Kalij pheasant

The kalij pheasant was first introduced to Hawaii in 1962. The males are black with grey and the females are light brown. The males have a distinctive red colouring around the eyes with a plume of feathers on their heads.

They grow to be between two to three feet in size. Originally from the Himalaya region in Nepal, it was the owners of Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch who first brought the kalij pheasants to the Big Island. You’re most likely to see these birds in forested upland areas, which is why we often see them here at Horizon due to the altitude – we’re at 1,100 feet.

Did you know? Despite it’s size the kalij is sometimes targeted as prey by the io, the Hawaiian hawk!

Red Cardinal
A friendly red cardinal
Red Cardinal

This colorful bird is fairly common on the Big Island. Also known as the northern cardinal, or redbird, it was introduced to Hawaii in 1929.

Cardinals are common in pairs and you’ll often see them in the garden at Horizon. The male is easily identified by his bright red color. The females are brown in color. When you hear birdsong first thing in the morning at Horizon it’s likely to be the cardinal as they are among the first birds to sing at dawn.

Zebra Finch Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Zebra finch on the lanai
Zebra finch

The zebra finch is a common bird on the property and it might take you a moment to see them. The zebra finch is very small. So-called because of its zebra-like stripes on its neck and chest, and also because of the coloring of its black and white tail.

There can be great variation in the coloring of zebra finches. Generally the male is gray with a black shading around its eye and patches of red on its cheeks as well as a red beak. The female’s beak is more of a pale orange.

Turkey Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Turkeys in the garden
Turkey

You’ll often see turkeys at Horizon moving in herds. Turkeys were released on the Big Island at the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch in the early 1960s when some wild Rio Grande turkeys were introduced.

Turkeys like the higher elevations and their population has grown significantly since their introduction. Their numbers are estimated at more than 15,000.

Did you know? Turkeys are found on all islands but are more common on the Big Island, Molokai and Lanai than the other islands.

Bird in
Bird in the hand!
Saffron finch

One of our favorites, the saffron finch is commonly found on the Big Island but especially on the Kona Coast. Often seen in large flocks, you’ll find saffron finches congregating around the pond at the entrance to the B&B.


The species of saffron finch on the Big Island are originally from Columbia/Venezuela and were introduced to the Big Island around the same time as the turkeys to the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch.

Did you know? A group of finches has many collective nouns, these include a ‘charm’, a ‘company’ and a ‘trembling’ of finches!

Look out for part II of our feature on the wild birds of Horizon in the future!


For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request

Orchid Extravaganza! Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

Orchid Big Island Horizon Guest House Kona

Guests at Horizon Guest House often ask me ‘what makes Hawaii so special?’ and the first answer that usually comes to mind is ‘the weather’.

The weather on the Big Island is consistent and doesn’t tend to change much throughout the year. The Big Island also has an added bonus – you can pick your weather within a tropical to subtropical range. Actually, you can technically find 10 of the 14 climate zones right here on the island.

Orchid Big Island Horizon Guest House Hawaii

One result of this consistent weather is the ability to grow a huge range of plants and flowers. And one of my favorites is the orchid (orchidaceae).

Orchid Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

The variety of flower formations is astounding. There are about 28,000 currently accepted species and about 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.

Orchids Big Island Hawaii Horizon BnB

Developing new hybrids and cultivars is a huge endeavor on the Big Island – you can see a large number of varieties at the annual orchid show in Hilo sponsored by the Hilo Orchid Society. This year it was held on June 28-30th. I didn’t make it to this year’s show but I have been to many in past years and thoroughly recommend it. For more details check out their website here

Orchid Big Island Horizon Guest House

Fun fact! Another name for the Big Island is the ‘orchid isle’. This is because Hawaii quite quickly got a reputation for excellence in producing orchids. First grown commercially in the early 1900s, Hawaii was dubbed ‘the orchid center of the world’ when the Honolulu Orchid Society exhibited over 20,000 plants in St. Louis at the 1957 World Orchid Conference. Today, orchids are a multi-million dollar industry.

When seeing orchids out in the living room, guests frequently ask how I’m able to have them out all year. Easy – basically I feed and ignore. The weather does the rest!

Orchids Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

The vanilla orchid (not pictured here) is probably one of the most well-known orchids. It is the second-most expensive spice after saffron. That’s because it’s so labor intensive. Two thirds of the world’s vanilla is grown in Madagascar and Indonesia.

I did have a vanilla orchid here at Horizon Guest House, and yes, it did bloom. The problem is that there’s a very specific window when it’s possible to pollenate – and I kept missing the window. And in the end, a turkey ripped the plant off the tree – and that was the end of my vanilla production.

Orchid Kona Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

Native orchids
Jewel orchid. Photo credit: G. Daida and http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/carr/orchidoid.htm
Jewel orchid. Photo credit: G. Daida and http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/carr/orchidoid.htm

There are only three types of orchids native to Hawaii. These are Anoetochilus sandvicensis (the jewel orchid); Liparis hawaiensis (the twayblade orchid); and Platanthera holochila.

Photo credit. Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6150896
Twayblade orchid. Photo credit. Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6150896

The best place to find these orchids in the wild is on a hike at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or in the wet forests on the east side of the island.

 

Photo credit. J.K. Obata
Platanthera holochila. Photo credit. J.K. Obata

Alternatively, for all things orchid, check out Akatsuka Orchid Gardens not far from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.Orchid Horizon Guest House Captain Cook Hawaii

But sometimes all you need is an orchid and a sunset…


For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request

Donkey Life: BFFs Poncho and Lefty Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

Donkey Big Island Hawaii B&B
Poncho and Lefty strike a pose

Over ten years ago we added to the Horizon animal family with the first of two donkeys. Poncho was the first addition and soon after we added Lefty. Both donkeys were born in the wild but were captured when they were young. They’re quite tame and love being fed with carrots by the guests.

They look so much alike that while we can’t be certain we’re pretty sure they’re twins! They’re inseparable and you’ll often find them grazing the pastures together at Horizon Guest House, with our horse Sunny not far behind. Sometimes Clem will let Poncho, Lefty and Sunny graze in the upper part of the garden where they like to come visit, keeping us company as we garden.

Donkey Big Island Hawaii Horizon BnB
Lefty

Donkeys don’t need to be shoed like horses. Donkeys tend to have tougher hooves. This is most likely because of their wild ancestor, the African Wild Ass, that evolved in dry, mountainous environments. Studies have shown that walking causes less internal stress to the hoof of the donkey than it does to that of horses. Though this doesn’t stop Poncho and Lefty from coming to hang out with Sunny when she gets her new shoes.

Did you know? Donkeys are smart. Not only is a donkey stronger than a horse of a smilier size, but donkeys have an amazing memory – they can recognise environments, as well as other donkeys, from more than twenty years prior. And just in case you thought donkeys looked less than alert, they’ve been shown to be safety conscious too – tests have proven a donkey will not do something it thinks is unsafe. Although, there was that time that Poncho and Lefty… wait – never mind. After all it wasn’t Poncho and Lefty who ended up in the swimming pool like Buck did…

Donkeys don’t like dogs so much and this might be an evolutionary hangover. It’s been suggested that to a donkey a dog resembles a wolf and therefore remains a threat. Donkeys will often protect the herd from anything it considers to be dangerous, whether that herd includes other donkeys, horses, sheep or goats.

Donkey Big Island Horizon B&B
Lefty checking in with Gary the Goat

Origins of donkeys on the Big Island of Hawaii

Originally brought to Hawaii as work animals on coffee farms and agricultural plantations, their population soon increased and wild donkeys were, until relatively recently, a common sight.

Wandering over the Big Island unchecked for almost the last 40 years, it was only in 2016 that the Humane Society had a big drive to place the remainder of these donkeys into safe, happy homes, either here on the Big Island or even on the mainland. Wild donkeys can be challenging to train so it was a requirement that all those that adopted donkeys could provide ample space and social contact for the animal.

And the key requirement of adopting a donkey? You’ve got to have two! Donkeys are incredibly social animals, so if they can’t have another donkey to keep them company then another animal is a must.

Make time during your stay to visit with our farm animals – they love the company, a scratch under the chin and a friendly pat, and of course a vegetable snack! We always have something on hand to feed them, just ask Clem and he’ll be happy to introduce you to BFFs Poncho and Lefty as well as Horizon’s other domesticated residents.

Donkey Big Island Hawaii Horizon B&B
The whole gang! Sunny taking some time out while Poncho and Lefty stand by

 


 

For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request

Geckos and Gecko Art at Horizon Horizon Guest House – Captain Cook – Big Island – Hawaii

Horizon Guest House Gecko Gold Dust Captain Cook Hawaii
Gold Dust Gecko in the garden at Horizon Guest House

Even though it was introduced from further afield, the gecko is now emblematic of Hawaii, and you can’t go far on the Big Island without finding them in the natural landscape, printed on t-shirts, made into stickers, or – as you’ll see in this post – as works of art on the walls of the Horizon B&B.

There are eight species of gecko in Hawaii:

  1. Mourning gecko
  2. Stump-toed gecko
  3. Fox gecko
  4. Common house gecko
  5. Tokay gecko
  6. Orange-spotted day gecko
  7. Giant day gecko
  8. Gold dust day gecko

Only the last three – orange-spotted, giant and gold dust geckos are active in the daytime. The gold dust gecko is one of the prettiest and so-named for the coloriation of its body. Their bodies are usually green, or a yellowy green, with yellow speckles.

Gold dust geckos can grow up to 9 inches long. They eat plants, insects and sometimes even other geckos! (And they love a sugar snack too). This species of gecko is the one you will most likely see during your stay at Horizon Guest House on the Kona Coast. Don’t worry, they are completely harmless!

Gold Dust Gecko having a snack at The Coffee Shack on the Kona Coast


Did you know? Geckos don’t have eyelids. Their eyes have a transparent membrane and they clean it with their tongue! Geckos are also able to vocalize, unlike other lizards, making a kind of chirping, clicking sound. The noises geckos make might be to scare off other geckos who have invaded their territory, as a means to avoid fighting, or to attract another gecko in order to mate. They can also jump a fair distance too when chasing their insect prey.

Contrary to popular opinion geckos don’t have tiny toe pads with suction cups. In fact, their toes are covered in hundreds of tiny microscopic hairs called setae. Each of these setae have hundreds of smaller bristles called spatulae. These tiny hairs get close enough to the contours of walls, ceilings and other surfaces that it causes what’s known as the van der Waals force to occur.

Fun fact! The van der Waals force is a physical bond that occurs when electrons from the gecko hair molecules and electrons from the surface of the wall, or ceiling, interact with each other creating an electromagnetic attraction. This allows the gecko to navigate smooth surfaces like glass, as well as walls and ceilings, with ease.

Sometimes you might see a gecko without a tail – as you can imagine this isn’t so good for the gecko. To regrow the tail involves a process that is taxing on the lizard, sapping them of energy. To make matters worse the tail itself is actually a place where essential nutrients and fat are stored for periods when food is difficult to find. If you see a gecko with a thick tail it’s a good indication of the geckos health, hence a thin tail could indicate poor health, or a lack of access to nutrient-rich food.

How did they get to Hawaii? We know the gecko was introduced and can probably assume that they made it across the vast distances in the Pacific by stowing away aboard Polynesian canoes.

Gold Dust Gecko with Clem at Kona Coffee and Tea in Kailua-Kona


Geckos have a varied life span depending on the species but the average expected life span is approximately five years. If you manage to keep one as a pet they can live longer – they have been known to live for almost 20 years in captivity. We don’t keep them as pets here at Horizon Guest House, but you’ll be sure to see them in the garden or out on the lanai, and the occasional one that makes its way indoors. Don’t worry, all rooms have insect screens and doors to keep them, and other insects, out.

Hawaiian mythology

The mo’o are mentioned in Hawaiian mythology as a kind of dragon – their bodies forming a part of the landscape. Seen as the guardians of water, and also the family, they serve to warn or protect a person from an approaching danger. Over time the geckos have become a kind of manifestation of the mythological mo’o. Making the gecko a small but well-respected creature in Hawaiian culture.

Gecko Art at Horizon

Over the years we’ve collected a lot of gecko-related art. These are currently displayed out on the main lanai of the house. Check out the photos below.

Horizon Guest House Captain Cook Hawaii Gecko

Gecko Horizon B&B Kona Coast Hawaii

Horizon Guest House B&B Captain Cook Hawaii

Horizon Guest House Captain Cook Hawaii B&B

Horizon Guest House B&B Honaunau Captain Cook Hawaii


For more details on Horizon Guest House:

• Check out our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request

Summer fruit on the Big Island: from the garden to the breakfast table! Horizon Guest House - Captain Cook - Big Island - Hawaii

Mango trees Captain Cook Big Island Bnb Hawaii

We’re well into summer here on the Big Island of Hawaii and with it comes an abundance of summer fruit grown right here on the property. Providing in-season fruit direct to the breakfast table for guests every day is our pleasure.

Organically grown in the gardens surrounding Horizon Guest House we currently have a bounty of mangoes, white pineapples, dragon fruit, lychees, and papaya.

Mangoes

Mangoes in Hawaii, is there anything better? We have a number of established trees on the property and this is a staple of our breakfast when in season.

Mango tree Horizon Guest House Captain Cook Hawaii

Big Island residents love their mangoes, whether they’re lucky enough to have their own backyard tree or purchased direct from the local Farmer’s Market – the closest one to us is on Sundays in South Kona – be sure to make the most of the mango season from May to October, and come to love them as much as we do.

Mangoes Captain Cook Big Island Hawaii BnB

Did you know? Mangoes aren’t in fact native to the Hawaiian Islands, rather it’s widely thought they arrived here in the early 19th century from Manila.

Mangoes also make a great ingredient in a number of Hawaiian recipes – sauces, salsa, cheesecake, ice cream and even pickles.

White Pineapple

What’s better than a pineapple? White pineapple. The sweet white flesh of the fruit itself is deliciously creamy, and is also low-acid. Even the core is edible! And it isn’t woody and stringy like other varieties.

White pineapples Horizon BnB Kona Hawaii

Grown mostly by local farmers on the Big Island and available at the local markets, white pineapple also goes by the name of Kona Sugarloaf, Big Island White or White.

Did you know? It’s a myth that pulling a leaf easily from the crown of the pineapple indicates  ripeness.

White pineapple pieces Horizon bed and breakfast HawaiiAmong other health benefits pineapple is a great source of potassium, vitamin C, and also fiber.

 

 

Dragon fruit

Believed by many to be a super fruit, dragon fruit is high in vitamin C, phosphorus and calcium. Red-skinned with red-flesh, orange-skinned with white flesh, and also red skinned with white flesh, it’s a sweet, juicy delight – tasting like a cross between a pear and a melon.

Dragon fruit South Kona Horizon Bed and Breakfast Hawaii

Similar to a kiwifruit because of its small, black, crunchy seeds, dragon fruit can also be added to deserts, smoothies, sorbets and salads.

Did you know? Its name comes from its appearance – like a fireball with its bright pink coloring and green leaves shaped like flames.

Lychee

We’re lucky enough to have a number of lychee trees at Horizon Guest House. When ripe lychees turn a bright red. The red rind conceals within a juicy, white, translucent and gelatinous flesh.

Lychee tree Captain Cook Hawaii Horizon Bed and Breakfast

Lychees are a delicious treat – and taste even better chilled. A staple of backyard gardens all over the Big Island they are also naturally high in vitamin C and potassium.

 

Lychees Big Island Kona Coast Hawaii Horizon BnB

 

Did you know? The first lychee plant was brought to Hawaii in the 1870s from China.

 

 

Papaya

Available year round in Hawaii, papaya flourish especially well from spring through to September. Enjoyed as part of the breakfast fruit platter they also make a great snack on their own. Simply scoop out the seeds and replace with a spoonful of yoghurt!

Papaya tree Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest HousePapaya can not only be added to salads and stews but the black seeds found inside the papaya are edible. The seeds have a sharp, spicy flavor and can be ground and used instead of black pepper.

Did you know? Papaya are originally from southern Mexico but now grow in most tropical countries – of course we believe the best is right here at the bed and breakfast.


Book now and enjoy your breakfast at Horizon Guest House with fresh fruit from the garden direct to our breakfast fruit platter – available daily.

• Check out more details on our suites here

• Information on our rates are available here

• To make a booking use our contact form to make a reservation request