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Kolea Count Guidelines, A Community Science Project

Summer Kolea in Waiau District Park, Pearl City. Photo courtesy Evelyn Nakanishi, June 18, 2021.

Project leader: Susan Scott, www.susanscott.net

Science advisor: Dr. Wally Johnson

Aloha Plover Lovers,

Thank you for helping collect information about Hawaii’s Pacific Golden-Plovers. In this ongoing study, we are asking these questions: (Also see the REPORT tab.)

  • When do Kolea arrive in the Islands? (ARRIVAL DATE, July 1 – November 30)
  • How many Kolea spend the winters here? (LITTLE AND BIG COUNTS, December 1 – March 31)
  • When do the birds leave for Alaska, and where do they gather for departure? (DEPARTURE DATE, April and May)
  • How many spend the summer here? (SUMMERING-OVER BIRDS, June only)


For those who want to count a small area, such as their backyard, a schoolyard, or church lawn, choose the LITTLE COUNT button in the REPORT tab. In the Little Count report tab, let us know any changes between December 1 and March 31 from your initial number.

Little Count: A Kaneohe resident grows mealworms for his backyard Kolea. ©Susan Scott


People who can count Kolea three times this winter in large areas such as campuses, parks, cemeteries, or golf courses go to this read-only link, bit.ly/2BFwVXG  to see the sites I’ve listed.

— Select your island and region, find your count location, and email me your choice in CONTACT. I keep track of who is counting, and where, on my master list. I’ll keep your name and email private.

— Count Kolea in your site 3 times between December 1 and March 31. If you can only count once or twice, that’s OK.  If you count more than 3 times, that’s fine. All data helps.

— Report each of your counts separately in the REPORT tab. Enter location, date, and number of birds counted. No need to re-enter your personal information each time. I’ll know by the location.

Big Count: Mililani Cemetery, 2020. ©Susan Scott

On the bottom of the HOME page, subscribe to get updates about T-shirts, tally counters, access tips, and other details  Also check NEWS at the bottom of the HOME page, or click the NEWS tab above.

You can help to improve this all-volunteer Kolea monitoring program by sharing this website and these guidelines with other Kolea fans. Let me know what’s working, and what isn’t.  Contact me if I’ve missed Big Count locations, and I’ll add it, and you, to the count list.



T-shirts available at https://www.hawaiiaudubon.org/store

By |2021-08-08T07:33:48-10:00August 21, 2020|Recent News|0 Comments

My Kolea is back!

On July 25, 2020, my Julie/Jake arrived on the MidPacific Golf Course.  

July 30, 2020.  Last week, a day after I wrote that I would soon hear from plover lovers that their Kolea are back, one of my two Kolea came back. Our dear Jake, or Julie, who forage all winter on opposite sides of a giant monkey pod tree off our lanai, showed up last Saturday, July 25th.

Because Kolea begin shedding their bright breeding-colored feathers while sitting on their eggs in June on the Alaska tundra, by the end of July most of those brilliant feathers are gone. We can’t, therefore, be sure whether a returned bird is male or female.

Like most animals, though, wide variations occur among individuals. Our returned bird still carries some spring colors, but whether its Jake with his winter outfit peeking through, or Julie still wearing much of her spring attire, I can’t say.

According to my neighbor, Joanne, I am the Head Honcho Queen Bee Leader of Kolea Kounters. That lofty title got me looking through my Kolea email file, saved since 2012, for first return dates:

— July 30, 2012: “I live in Mililani Mauka and came home to see my favorite Kolea in my backyard this afternoon!”
— August 3, 2013: “Saw a lone Kolea today @ Wailua Golf Course, on Kauai, on the 17th fairway.”
— August 2, 2014: “Jane said that your plover returned on Thursday–mine, too!”
— July 1, 2015: “I saw a Kolea at Hunakai Park in Kahala.”
— July 26, 2016: “Just saw two female plovers foraging together in my neighbor’s yard [Keeamoku.]”
— July 25, 2017: Plover at BYUH yesterday [with photo] reported to Wally Johnson who forwarded to me.
— July 3, 2018: “…on my noontime walk at work yesterday, I spotted the first Kolea to show up in the area where I work near Whitmore Village.”
— July 16, 2019: “On our walk this morning we saw 3 plovers at Mililani Mauka Community Park.”
— July 25, 2020: “…I may have seen our first sighting(s) of a (pair?) of newly returned koleas.” Several of us saw our birds return last weekend, arriving just before Hurricane Douglas passed near Hawaii.

Most of the plover watchers above remarked that this seemed an early return for the birds, but a glance shows that late July/early August is normal. After these initial sightings, emails poured in about plover returns.

It’s possible that the July 1st and 3rd dates above were birds whose eggs or hatchlings were eaten by foxes, gulls, falcons, or jaegers, causing the parents to give up the season and come home. Migrating caribou also sometimes trample nests.

There’s also the chance that the July 1st and 3rd birds had been here all summer, a group we just this year began to count. Birds that aren’t in good enough shape to make the 3-day, nonstop, 3,000-mile migration in April and May know it, and stay in Hawaii. Plover expert, Wally Johnson, thinks most of those are first-year birds, but …

By |2020-07-31T20:58:33-10:00July 31, 2020|Recent News|0 Comments
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