Local Artist Paints a Brighter Future for Native Birds

Kaua‘i Wildlife Coalition

Project promotes a “Cat Safe, Wildlife Safe Kaua‘i”

Date: June 9th 2021

Local multimedia artist Trysen Kaneshige has spent the last two months painting larger-than-life murals of our native waterbirds and seabirds. The project, which was supported by the County of Kaua‘i’s ‘Rise to Work’ program, uses street art to introduce Kaua‘i residents to our endangered native birds, and to the idea that both cats and birds are protected when cats are kept indoors. [see his work here and here]

Waterbirds like the ‘alae ‘ula (Hawaiian common gallinule) and koloa maoli (Koloa duck), as well as seabirds like mōlī (Laysan albatross) and ‘ua‘u (Hawaiian petrel), are an important and charismatic part of Hawaiian culture. Some of these birds are threatened with extinction across the state, but in Kaua‘i, we are lucky enough to be able to see them easily, at golf courses, parks and wetland areas. These birds evolved without any mammalian predators on our isolated islands, so they do not fly away when confronted by an introduced predator, like a cat. The risk to Kauaʻi’s waterbirds and seabirds is magnified by the massive number of feral cats roaming the landscape and the fact that these vulnerable birds nest on the ground.  

Helen Raine, Executive Director of ARC, commissioned the work on behalf of the Kaua‘i Wildlife Coalition. She said, “Trysen’s innovative art shows the beauty of these Hawaiian birds, but also highlights their vulnerability to cats. The wildlife on Kaua‘i is unique – we’re the Noah’s Ark for some of these birds, often the last place in the state where they are still thriving.”

Outdoor cat colonies are also problematic. These colonies maintain cats in poor living conditions where they are at risk from car accidents, dog attacks and disease. Grant Sizemore of American Bird Conservancy, a KWC member, said, ““It’s safer for both the cats and the birds when all cats are kept indoors, on a leash, or in a catio (fenced space). Cats can also spread a disease called toxoplasmosis to humans; it is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their babies. In Hawaiian monk seals and dolphins, it is often fatal.” Research published in 2020 indicated a surprisingly high prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, throughout Kauaʻi.

Trysen’s work is portable and will be exhibited in various locations around the island as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. In the meantime, a virtual exhibition of the paintings can also be found here and a video here

Introducing: Trysen Kaneshige, artist.

Trysen Kaneshige (known as “TK” to his friends & ohana), is a Kauaʻi-born graphic designer, multi-media artist, and muralist. This April, Trysen joined the ARC team as part of the County of Kauaʻi’s 2021 Rise to Work program.

For the last two months, Kaneshige has been creating street art portraying the vibrancy and imperilment of Kauaʻi’s native birds. His series of spray-paint and acrylic panels capture endemic species like the ʻalae ke’oke’o (Hawaiian coot), and the `alae `ula (Hawaiian gallinule) in their wetland habitat.

Trysen has also painted panels to illustrate how keeping cats indoors can protect both cats and wildlife. Feral cats threaten Kaua’i’s native birds with extinction, and Trysen’s work helps share the “cat safe, wildlife safe” message to encourage responsible cat ownership.

To date, Trysen has also produced logos, stickers, and t-shirts for the ARC team, and used his artistic talent to communicate our seabird tracking research in a visual and highly compelling form. His seabird panel shows a’o (Newell’s shearwater) equipped with geo-locater tracking devices, returning to the mountains of Kauaʻi to breed.

To see a gallery of Trysen’s work as an ARC Rise to Work employee please click here.

To contact Trysen and for business inqueries please visit his website:

We’re so happy you joined ARC. Mahalo, Trysen!

All photographs: © Trysen Kaneshige, 2021


Andre and Helen join podcast host Nick Swick from the American Birding Association to share their experience of birding in Hawai’i, home to some of the world’s rarest birds.  

Click here to listen

Hana Hou Article

Hana Hou, the Hawaiian Airlines Magazine, on the launch of the book.

Click here to read

Photo Attribution NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) Douglas LeMoine 

The Garden Island

The Garden Islands’s take on our ‘Field guide to birds of Hawai’i

Click here to read

Photo attribution Donald Metzner