WHAT: Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) - Hawaiian name: Honu'ea
WHERE: I photographed this turtle at Honaunau Bay, on the southeastern coast of Hawaii's Big Island.
We see this species of sea turtle infrequently in Hawaii, so it's always nice to cross paths with one. Hawksbills have been known to nest on the eastern coast of the Big Island, but they are not plentiful. Seeing one on the western coast of the island always is an event worth noting.
Unlike the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, which are primarily vegetarians, Hawksbill turtles eat sponges and small invertebrates in addition to algae. We have not observed Hawksbill feeding behavior in Hawaii, but elsewhere we have seen them munching soft corals and sponges. We once spent most of a dive watching as a Hawksbill turtle methodically devoured a tube sponge, gnawing it and pulling away hunks until there was nothing left of the sponge but a stub!
For more information about this endangered species, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hawksbill Sea Turtle Fact Sheet.