Krazy for Kolea Kontest

By Arleone Dibben-Young 

The fall migration of the kolea, the Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva), will begin shortly with birds returning from their summer breeding grounds in the Alaskan tundra sometime around the end of July. The earliest observed birds are typically females that may have experienced a failed nesting attempt or perhaps did not bond with a mate for the breeding season. Adult males normally appear by the end of August, followed by juveniles in October.

The kolea is easily recognized by its bold black & white breeding feathers called “alternate” plumage, however this is lost by winter. Kolea are long-lived (20-plus years), territorial and annually return to the same grounds: Many Molokai residents have named their distinguished winter guests and note arrival and departure dates on calendars. Sightings are collected at Nene O Molokai and emailed to Mr. Peter Pyle, ornithologist, who then compiles this information for the Bishop Museum.

Koleas are swift flyers, performing an incredible non-stop transpacific migration to Hawaii in about 40 hours at speeds averaging 56 – 60 miles per hour. Some birds continue on to points as far south as Australia or as far away as Madagascar. In Hawaii the winter range of the kolea can include pastures and cultivated fields, coastal salt marshes and mudflats, the grassy borders of airport runways, athletic fields, golf courses, and residential lawns.

The kolea spends most of its daylight hours foraging and can be recognized from a distance by its peculiar feeding behavior of run-stop-run. Nighttime roosting sites are Molokai’s coastal fishpond walls or rocky points, parking lots, roof tops or other areas where distance visibility is good and predators can be easily sighted.

Kolea on their northern migration may have aided ancient navigators with the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, and the bird figured prominently in Hawaiian folklore: it was considered to be the embodiment of the god of healing, Koleamoku, and a messenger of high chiefs.

Report the return of your kolea to Arleone Dibben-Young at Nene O Molokai. Include date, time, and location. The observer of the first CONFIRMED sighting will win a Keep Them Wild! nene T-shirt. The first ten confirmed observations will receive a gift certificate for a scoop of ice cream at Kamoi Snack ‘N Go. In addition, any individual reporting a banded Kolea will receive $25. The sighting and location of each banded bird WILL BE CONFIRMED for this prize: Seven females were each banded on the left leg with a yellow band over a silver metal band. Three males were banded on the right leg in the same manner. Call 553-5992 or email


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