Meet the Team & Learn More About HBT!

At Hawaii Bird Tours we’re an all-female team dedicated to providing day tours, multi-day adventures and customized excursions so you can have your ultimate Hawaii birding experience. Our promise is to ensure that each guest is having a great time while learning about Hawaii’s alluring flora and fauna while we put conservation at the forefront. We have decades of experience among us after operating tours in Hawaii and beyond. We look forward to sharing Hawaii’s beautiful birds, unique wildlife, and the projects in place to help save them, with you.


Meet the Team

Founder, Owner and Lead Guide – Mandy Talpas

As a tremendous lover of birds and wildlife, Mandy has dedicated her life to avian conservation. From the time she was a child, she collected natural history observations in her backyard in Pennsylvania. She began by volunteering at wildlife rehabilitation and education centers as well as rescuing countless unwanted pet parrots. She then earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from East Stroudsburg University and began conducting environmental education programs as a Naturalist, a Lead Conservation Educator at an AZA-accredited zoo, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and a Bird Banding and Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.

She continued to broaden her scientific studies and field skills with the Ornithology Lab at Villanova University. Her passion for parrots led her to the remote forests of Manu, Peru, where she worked to save endangered macaws, as well as studying tropical ecology throughout Latin America.
She is grateful to have built a new life in Hawaii as a full-time professional bird and nature guide. She’s worked across the islands as a field technician, an avian ecologist, and a biological consultant. After juggling multiple jobs, working for several nature tour operators in Hawaii, and international birding tour operators, she took the leap to start up her very own birding tour company. Since then, she’s led and managed birding tours in Hawaii for the American Birding Association, Rockjumper, Wings, Alvaro’s Adventures and many more, as their expert guide, local tour operator, logistics planner, and ground agent.

When Mandy’s not guiding, she enjoys promoting traditional Arabic performing arts, sharing laughs with her rescue cockatoos, hiking with friends, snorkeling, soaking up some sun on the beach, and collaborating with avian conservation initiatives around the world.

Big Island Bird Guide – Pippa Swannell

Pippa earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in the UK, where she grew up. Her lifelong passion for the natural world and desire to understand it drove her to pursue experiences, rather than a single career path. She has practical experience in the fields of geology, environmental education, marine biology, habitat restoration, tourism, education, and wildlife observation.

Her love for birds was nurtured while carrying out reef and bird surveys in Belize in 2014, and since then she has taken birds from an interest to a passion on her global travels. As an active volunteer on the Big Island, Hawaii, for Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR, Mauna Kea Reforestation Project, and Ocean Defenders Alliance, Pippa takes caring for the environment seriously. She enthusiastically shares her knowledge and love for the islands’ complex natural history and its fragile ecosystems on all of her tours.

In her own words, ‘wanting to see and know birds is synonymous with wanting to see and know all nature in its breathtaking intricacy. In taking an interest and caring about the small things we find beauty everywhere and very good reason to protect it’. When Pippa isn’t guiding or volunteering she keeps busy creating nature-inspired artwork and underwater photography.

Kauai Bird Guide – Maria Sabatini

Life on the beautiful and unhurried North Shore of Kauai is a world away from where Maria spent her thirty-year career as a professional firefighter in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her love of birds runs deep in her family, inheriting the bug for birding from her mother and grandfather. Now she lives in proximity to an array of seabirds and freshwater aquatic birds and opportunities to observe and be amused are plentiful.
Maria has hundreds of hours serving as a volunteer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both at the Hanalei Refuge, where she performs avian botulism surveys in the wetlands and taro fields, and at the Kilauea Point Refuge where she participates in mapping the locations and assessing success of nest sites of the magnificent Laysan Albatross. She has also offered her time giving guided bird tours for the non-profit Friends Group supporting the three national wildlife refuges located on Kauai.
Every interaction with an interested visitor who enjoys watching birds is an opportunity to talk about the many human-introduced threats to our native and endemic species, and how to support the organizations working feverishly to save the most vulnerable. Maria likes to share her knowledge of the island’s natural history and is always learning more as she goes. She also enjoys offering suggestions for a nice beach to visit or a spot to enjoy lunch. When not seeking out birds or thinking about birds, she practices improving her ukulele skills and dabbles in watercolor painting.

Adventure Guide – Patti Jette

Hawaii’s unique history, culture, food, and landscape are a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for many and that’s no different for Patti, our Adventure Guide. It is her passion to help you explore these amazing islands and all they have to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned adventurer, are seeking new challenges, or looking for some hard-core relaxation, her goal is for you to enjoy the ultimate Hawai’i.

As an avid hiker and outdoorswoman, she takes full advantage of the amazing hiking trails and gardens across the state. She tailors her outdoor excursions carefully to challenge but not exceed the ability of her guests. Currently, she is in the process of kayaking around the entire island of Oahu, segment by segment. She knows the waterways well and loves bringing people on more leisurely excursions, searching for Hawaiian green sea turtles or hoping to see a whale off in the distance in the wintertime. As an Advanced Open Water scuba diver, she’s also extremely passionate about our reefs and marine wildlife. She enjoys pointing out many of our endemic fish on snorkel excursions, and maybe even spotting an octopus!

As a member of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, she staunchly supports and advocates for preserving native Hawaiian culture as well as supporting native Hawaiian businesses. During the 2020 pandemic, She was one of the first cohorts to receive formal training from Kapiolani Community College to complete both her Certification for Hawai’i Professional Tour Guides as well as their Certificate for Customer Service in Hawai’i. Visiting historic sites of ancient Hawai’i and telling the stories of our Hawaiian Kingdom deeply resonate in her soul.

In her previous career, she traveled the world shooting and editing videos for a variety of news organizations. She is still an avid photographer and videographer and can help you capture amazing images to remember your experience forever. Whether you are using a phone camera, a new DSLR, or are an experienced photographer, she loves discussing composition, camera settings, and photo editing – and will introduce you to breathtaking locations. You will definitely come to understand why Hawai’i, or anywhere in the world, is her adopted home.

We look forward to sharing Hawaii’s eclectic culture, extreme geology, rich history, beautiful birds, unique wildlife, and the projects in place to help save them with you!

Why Go Birding With Us?

We provide quality guiding services. We’re passionate about birds, and we do this because we love to share our knowledge with others.

Sharp birding senses, and good directions. We’ve honed our craft, working hard to make sure we give good, quick directions to get you on the bird, and we’re knowledgeable about the fine details of every species – just what you should expect when hiring a local birding guide!

We think you’ll appreciate our easy-going approach, and our understanding that everyone learns and sees things differently. Pleasant personalities make for pleasant trips! While we do take our job seriously, we try not to take ourselves too seriously. Birding is supposed to be fun, isn’t it?

More birds, plants, butterflies, reptiles – you name it. We strive to learn as much as we can about every aspect of Hawaii’s natural history, so you can benefit from that knowledge while on tour.

We have the right permits, we’re insured, we’ve invested in safe and comfortable transportation, we pay our taxes…basically, we’re a legitimate operation. It might seem surprising, but not everyone abides by the same standards. We also have the experience it takes to organize efficient, glitch-free trips. We also emphasize birding ethics:
Although we have a team of sought-after guides, avid birders, listers, photographers and videographers, we are conservationists first and foremost. Most of the endemic birds we all want to encounter are endangered species in fragile ecosystems. Our group tours are designed for birders and their loved ones to enjoy Hawaii’s native species in their native environment without negatively impacting Hawaii’s wildlife. We will not damage or remove native vegetation or alter the natural environment, or displace any native wildlife, no matter how small, for a better photo opportunity. We do not use playback (playing recorded calls and songs) with any of our native Hawaiian bird species to disrupt their natural behaviors for better viewing or photo opportunities. This is illegal with any endangered species and we believe playback shouldn’t be used on any of our native Hawaiian bird species, whether it’s the breeding season, or not. We will only use playback for skulky introduced bird species, where we have been granted permission to. Hawaii Bird Tours is an ongoing and proud member of the American Birding Association. Mandy has served on their Records & Ethics committee and our team agrees that, “Birding should be fun and help build a better future for birds, for birders, and for all people”

We strive to be environmentally responsible and good community members. We foster wildlife conservation through environmental awareness and education with every guest.

Supporting Local Conservation Efforts in Hawaii

In addition to Maria volunteering with the Friends of Kauai Wildlife Refuges, Pippa volunteering with the Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR, Mauna Kea Reforestation Project and the Ocean Defenders Alliance, Patti volunteering with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, and Mandy volunteering with Pacific Rim Conservation and Hawaii Audubon, Hawaii Bird Tours proudly supports and donates to:

Pacific Rim Conservation

Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR

Hawaii Audubon Society

Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project

Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project


Get in Touch

Our team would love to hear from you!