April 29, 2024

Thanks to Hawaiʻi’s residents and visitors who care about the remarkable migratory shorebirds we call kōlea, the Kōlea Count project had another season loaded with information. And that’s the point. As we kōlea watchers report what, when, and where we see our plovers in the Islands, we learn more about the birds as well as the people who love them.

Besides learning new things, kōlea help us to make new friends. Plover fan Roger Kobayashi (right) hosts me several times a year at Ford Island (a contractor working there took this photo of us) and Tripler Army Medical Center to watch kōlea gather. On Saturday, only 6 birds remained, a gradual decrease from a high of 110.

Some of what we learn in Kōlea Count is natural science, such as the dates the birds come and go in Hawaiʻi. Other details are social, such as the relationships Hawaiʻi people have with the birds. Last year during Hawaiʻi Audubon Society’s Alaska visit, Nome residents were astonished to hear that our plovers are on friendly terms with us. Another reason our kōlea are special.

This kōlea learned to eat mealworms from the home owner’s hand. The bird returned to the man’s Kailua yard for 15 years.

Bottom line: It’s all good. You can’t do it wrong.

If you feed your bird, please offer high protein food, such as worms or scrambled egg. This is my Jake, at least eight years old, eating his egg. His last day on my lanai was April 20th. 

As for the state’s estimated plover population, several volunteers are currently analyzing our counts, along with eBird reports. I’ll share the resulting maps and charts when they’re available. In the meantime, below are some arrival data we know from your reports.

Starting in late July, 486 plover lovers entered the date they saw their first kolea return from Alaska. Report numbers ranged from one bird to 56 individuals at Tripler Army Medical Center. UHM graduate student, Claire Atkins, created the below graphs using that arrival data.

Most of our plovers have departed but a few are still here. I’ll share reported departure dates the end of May. Please report birds you see in June in the SUMMERING-OVER tab. July starts a new season when the earliest kōlea return.

I read and enjoy all your kōlea stories. (Forty people, for instance, named their bird. My favorite name this year: Get chance.)

Thank you for your patience as we continue working on the data you collect. Will keep you posted.


Susan Scott