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Manu Minute: The Pacific Golden-Plover

Special thanks to the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for today's bird song.

Kōlea, or Pacific golden-plovers, are considered indigenous and spend their winters in the main Hawaiian islands (as well as other tropical and coastal areas).  By the end of April, most Kōlea migrate up to Alaska to feast on abundant food resources and to breed. 

After their chicks have fledged, Kōlea return to Hawaii by the end of August. They make the non-stop flight from Alaska to Hawaii in three to four days.

Similar to other Hawaiian birds, Kōlea is a phonetic based name from their keening flight call which has come to mean "one who takes and leaves.”  One Hawaiian proverb, “Ai no ke kōlea a momona hoi i Kahiki!” states that the Kōlea eats until he is fat, and then returns to the land from which he came. Seasonal migrations of Kōlea across the Pacific were used in navigation by Hawaiian and other Polynesian seafarers.

These plovers can be commonly found foraging on shorelines and particularly love to hunt for worms in grassy fields. Kōlea return to the same winter territory each year — so that Kōlea you see on your lawn is probably the same one that was there last year!


Patrick Hart interests in the ecology and conservation of Hawaiian forests and forest birds stem from years of living in a primitive field camp as a graduate student in the 1990’s at Hakalau Forest National wildlife refuge.
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