Pacific Golden Plover–Kolea

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Should you visit Hawaii in the fall and winter months, you may have the opportunity to see the Pacific Golden Plover. This beautiful bird was named “Kōlea” by early Hawaiians who noted that individual birds return to the same place in the islands year after year.

This species is a wader and forages for food on tundra, fields, beaches and tidal flats–usually by sight. It eats insects and crustaceans and some berries. They are often noted to stand on one leg as if posing. Their coloring becomes darker just before they fly back to the Alaskan tundra.

According to Wikipedia, the Kōlea’s native breeding ground is the Arctic tundra from northernmost Asia into western Alaska. It migrates in the fall and winter months into warmer territories. Scientist have found that these birds make a 3000 mile non-stop trip from Alaska to Hawaii in 3 to 4 days. These photos were taken at Kōlea in mid September. In Hawaii, they appear a brownish color with golden highlights, initially, and then turn a darker color in the spring before travelling north. During breeding season, the face and underbelly turns a dark, almost black color. The oldest Kōlea recorded was at least 21 years old.

This is the engraving outside the Kolea complex in the Waikoloa Beach Resort.

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In West Hawaii, the Kolea fly back to Alaska on April 25th each year only to return to the identical place on a grassy area near the ocean around mid August. Sometimes the older ones do not make the trip and stay in Hawaii for the entire year but they are rarely seen in the May-August period.
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