Farewell and fair winds, dear kolea
Kōlea in flight, Kaena Point. ©Leslie MacPherson, DLNR.
April 27, 2023
Goodbye and good luck
Since late March, kōlea watchers have been reporting behavior changes in the birds they’re watching. Some say their birds became exceptionally active and friendly. (See my April 5th post about our bird, Jake.) Others noticed that their bird began to tolerate other birds in its territory. One plover fan reported that her plover started making soft cheeping sounds, as if trying to communicate.
Our male, Jake, (left) usually defends his foraging territory from other birds but come April, he tolerates company, such as this attractive female. ©Susan Scott
The big question we plover followers had this month is: Where are the kōlea gathering for the big departure?
It’s a good question, one that Kolea Count is helping answer. Since early and mid April, plover watchers have reported that their bird is gone. It’s not likely they went to Alaska that early, because others reported flocks of 8-to-60 or so individuals gathering in fields at Ford Island near the NOAA building, Tripler Army Hospital, the lower campus of UH, and Diamond Head Crater.
Plover fan, Roger Kobayashi, escorted me onto Ford Island (military ID required) to see the gathering near the NOAA building. ©Susan Scott
By yesterday, April 26th, Roger reported that the birds were gone from Tripler. I also checked Kailua Beach Park and Kualoa Regional Park. None.
With no reports of the exact liftoff moment, it’s hard to say the precise day our plovers leave for Alaska. It’s probably safe to say that as of today, April 27th, most of Hawaiʻi’s kōlea are winging their way, nonstop, to their breeding grounds, 3,000 miles away. Wally Johnson, who is following reports, emailed: “Looks like departure is on schedule. Tough to get precise data, but appears to be about the same timing as last 40+ years!”
Come July and August, our kōlea will repeat this astonishing journey when they return to Hawaiʻi. We plover lovers will welcome them back with open arms.
Hawaiʻi Audubon board member and kōlea fan, Pat Moriyasu, shot this funny photo of a kōleaʻs “skirt” during one of our blustery days in early March.
Wally Johnson’s multiple migrations
In March, 2022, plover researcher Wally Johnson and volunteers from the Hawaii Audubon Society caught 30 kolea in mist nets at Punchbowl Cemetery for a successful migration study. To relieve the birds of their tiny backpacks, as well as to recharge the depleted batteries and reuse the $1,500-each devices, Wally returned in September to capture the birds carrying tracking devices (below photos.)
After repeated attempts, Wally and volunteer teams caught all but four tagged birds. Everyone involved was disappointed that we failed to recover four devices, but we tried hard.