Tag Archives: golden pacific plover

Time nears for plovers to bid aloha to islands

Published April 22, 2017 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2017 Susan Scott

A Pacific golden plover, or kolea, enjoys eating pieces of fish. Most of the birds will head to Alaska soon, except for the weak or sick. Courtesy Robert Weber

We have four days left to admire our kolea friends, so stunning in their spring attire. On or near Tuesday most of the Pacific golden plovers we’ve been enjoying in our yards, parks, golf courses and cemeteries will leave for Alaska to raise their kids in the insect-rich Arctic. Underweight or injured birds will pass on nesting this year and stick around for the summer.

How empty our yard will feel without Jude, the bird that has been brightening our days by dropping in for the occasional breakfast, lunch or dinner.

We live on a golf course, where Jude spends his time foraging. Most days, especially after rain, the pickings are so good in the grass that Jude prefers worms and bugs over eggs. During dry stretches, though, when he sees movement in our house, he flies to the lanai doors and waits patiently for some of the scrambled eggs we keep for him in the fridge.

I say patiently because before the egg toss I sprinkle some birdseed around the corner of the house to divert the mynahs’ and cardinals’ attention. Jude quickly learned that there’s nothing in that offering for him and stands rooted, waiting for me to dole out the yellow protein.

Jude, whom I called Julie before he showed his true colors, cannot swallow a piece of egg bigger than a pea. If I toss a chunk as large as, say, a lima bean, the bird drops it to peck it apart. The loose egg often gains the notice of our mynah-with-the-broken-leg who steals the egg from a surprised Jude’s beak.

This is why I was surprised when biologist-photographer friend Robert Weber emailed pictures of a kolea with a fish in its beak. Robert wrote, “I enjoyed watching (a kolea) fishing in shallow mud flats on Maui. It would wade around in the water, catch a fish, then carry it up the shore to tear it apart where it couldn’t get away. Interesting and entertaining.”

The fish is small, but still. It seems a kolea would quickly lose a fish to bandit birds before it could break it into beak-sized bits. But maybe our Jude is a first-year, inexperienced bird. Or he’s just slow.

I sent Robert’s photo to plover expert Wally Johnson, who emailed back, “We knew the little guys occasionally took fish, but had no images. Am very pleased to have these!”

We all are. Thanks, Robert.

The plovers’ signal to fly to Alaska is triggered by length of day. No one knows how the birds coordinate their actual departure. Over a few days they will gather in flocks, then suddenly fly to a great height and disappear.

A good place to see kolea assemble — and, with luck, witness the start of their incredible journey — is Kualoa Regional Park.

Fair winds, sweet birds. We await your return.

New book chronicles decades of kolea studies

Published December 17, 2016 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2016 Susan Scott

In the mid-1990s I wrote a column about the Pacific golden plover, Oahu’s favorite shorebird, known here as kolea. Soon after, I received in the mail several journal articles about these birds from ornithologist Oscar Wally Johnson of Montana State University. Someone had mailed Wally a copy of the column, and though we had not met, he sent me his publications.

“Nice piece on the kolea,” he wrote. “I think you’ll find these interesting.”

And so began a 20-year (and counting) friendship among Wally, me, the kolea and their many admirers.

As his research revealed more and more of this bird’s astonishing capabilities (flying, for instance, 3,000 miles nonstop in three days while occasionally reaching 100 mph in favorable wind), Wally began giving annual talks on Oahu.

Readers of this column increasingly emailed me questions about the kolea they saw in their yards, parks, golf courses and streets. I would email Wally the questions, he would email back the answers and I would write another kolea column.

Finally, last year, when Wally’s Oahu lectures were drawing standing-room-only crowds, and my kolea email became so abundant it got its own folder, we decided it was time to write a book.

The University of Hawai‘i Press agreed. Wally and I worked together to put his scientific articles into everyday terms and illustrate them with his photos and maps. As a result, he and I recently became the proud co-authors of “Hawaii’s Kolea: The Amazing Transpacific Life of the Pacific Golden-Plover.”

Wally, an affiliate research scientist at Montana State, became fascinated with kolea in 1979 while working in the Marshall Islands, and has been studying them since. His research continues to take him from his home in Bozeman to Hawaii, Alaska and throughout the Pacific.

Wally is the undisputed world expert on Pacific golden plovers.

The book contains pretty much everything everyone knows about kolea, and as you would expect, Wally’s photos during his 38-year pursuit of kolea facts are out of this world.

Before his death in 2006, Bob Krauss of The Honolulu Advertiser chronicled the comings and goings of Oahu’s kolea. I never met Bob, but I read his columns and am happy to accept the title that many readers have bestowed upon me: the new Bob Krauss. My kolea email is now more numerous than all my other column subjects combined.

The Hawaii Audubon Society is a longtime supporter of Wally’s kolea research. You can help Hawaii’s plovers and other native birds by buying the book from that nonprofit organization. Go to Hawaii Audubon Store.

Have a kolea Christmas.

The kolea are set to depart on their 3,000-mile journey

Published April 25, 2016 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2016 Susan Scott
This bird’s black face, ringed with white, marks it as a male. He is due to take off any day now for Alaska, where he’ll try to woo a mate. ©2016 Susan Scott

This bird’s black face, ringed with white, marks it as a male. He is due to take off any day now for Alaska, where he’ll try to woo a mate. ©2016 Susan Scott

The past few weeks our Pacific golden plovers, or kolea as we call them here in Hawaii, have looked so stunning in their spring attire, I’ve often had to stop and stare. Now it’s time to say farewell.

I wish they wouldn’t go, but that’s migration for you. The birds have molted into their breeding colors not to charm us, but to charm a mate in Alaska, where with luck the couple will raise four chicks.

So off they go today (or within the next few days), 7-ounce birds flying 3,000 miles nonstop over the Pacific Ocean in three days.

This winter we had a kolea we called “she” occasionally hop onto our lanai from the fronting golf course. Now our lanai visitor is a male. He’s plump, perky and drop-dead gorgeous. “Did that female ever come back?” Craig asked last week as we admired the preening male.

She didn’t. But now that I think about it, our winter “she” is probably the spring “he” we’re seeing now, the same bird dressed in different outfits. The golf course is loaded with plovers, but because the species is territorial, it’s likely the same bird.

When we see kolea in parks, on golf courses and along roads in winter, there’s no way to know whether they’re males or females.

The sexes look identical in winter, but come spring the difference between them is clear.

Males have solid black faces, breasts and bellies, outlined by a bright white racing stripe. Females have similar colors, but they aren’t as sharply outlined, the result being a mottled look. Both sexes, though, have gold-flecked backs and wings that remind me of jeweled cloaks.

Healthy birds with enough body fat to make the journey generally leave Hawaii on or around April 25. The birds’ departure is dramatic. One day kolea are there. The next day they’re gone.

Don’t worry if your bird doesn’t leave this week. Each kolea knows whether it’s strong enough to make it to Alaska. A few underweight birds might skip the trip north and stay in Hawaii for the summer. These are often first-year birds that hatched the previous summer.

According to plover researcher Wally Johnson, no one knows how the birds coordinate their leaving. Over a few days the kolea gather in flocks of various sizes. Suddenly the flock takes off, rises to a great height and heads to sea until it disappears. Sometimes an ascending flock merges with another passing by.

Johnson says a good place to see this flocking, and with luck, the departure itself, is Kualoa Regional Park on Kaneohe Bay.

Those of us who admire kolea fall, winter and spring feel their departure and absence acutely. But that’s the beauty of migration. In August they’ll be back.

Much-loved migratory birds are winging back to the isles

Published August 10, 2015 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2015 Susan Scott

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A kolea, or golden plover, makes a midwinter stop at Midway Atoll. The birds split time between Hawaii and Alaska, where they mate, lay eggs and raise their chicks. ©2015 Susan Scott

I am so excited that I had to tell someone,” emailed my neighbor Joanne. “My kolea is back!”

This message was one of several I received last week reporting sightings of Hawaii’s much-loved migratory shorebird, the Pacific golden plover, or kolea in Hawaiian.

As much as we love our lovely little plover pals, facts about the species can be hard to find. The following are questions from readers. My answers come from kolea researcher Wally Johnson’s published studies.

Question: How long do kolea live?

Answer: The average bird lives six to 10 years, but some live longer. One kolea wintered in a grassy field at Bellows Air Force Station for 21 years, three months.

Q: How long does it take for the birds to reach Alaska?

A: Kolea fly to their tundra breeding grounds, 3,000 or so miles from Hawaii, over open ocean in three days, about 72 hours. Their return flights to Hawaii take about four days due to adverse winds.

Q: Do kolea have chicks in Hawaii?

A: Never. Mating, egg laying and chick rearing all occur in Alaska.

Q: When do kolea migrate?

A: Underweight birds stay in Hawaii all summer. Healthy birds with enough fat stores to make the trip (the birds know) all leave around April 25, likely cued by day length.

Birds with failed nests due to predators or bad weather can return to Hawaii as early as June. Adults that successfully raised chicks come back in August, with females usually arriving before males. Juveniles appear in October and sometimes as late as November depending on fall weather.

Q: I have a kolea in my yard year after year. Is it the same bird?

A: Yes. Both male and female kolea return to, and defend, the same wintering site year after year.

Q: How do I tell a male from a female?

A: In winter you can’t. Both sexes molt into the same winter colors soon after they arrive in Hawaii. Keep watching, though. In spring the birds molt again. Males are brighter than females and have distinct edges to their black, white and gold feathers.

Over the decades, our kolea have learned to graze on grass and pavement, rest on rooftops and fence posts and steer clear of cars, cats and dogs. As a result of this remarkable adaptation to urban life, the birds give us city dwellers a heartfelt connection to nature.

That’s why a lot of us this month are so excited that we have to tell someone: My kolea is back!


Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com

©2015 Susan Scott

 

Our Pacific golden plovers prepare for Alaska flight

Published April 6, 2015 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2015 Susan Scott

Plover

A male kolea in breeding colors. Courtesy O.W. Johnson

Hawaii’s annual spring pageant is upon us, the superstars dazzling in their April outfits as they prance through backyards, across golf courses, among gravestones and between parked cars. The celebrities are Pacific golden plovers, our much-loved migratory shorebirds known in Hawaii as kolea.

Although kolea start molting into their striking breeding colors here in March, the birds stay single until they reach their Alaska breeding grounds. There males return to the same spot each year and, upon arrival, get busy rebuilding a ground nest of leaves and lichen.

Females, though, aren’t usually faithful to either place or partner. Instead they shop around, looking for the handsomest male with the finest nest.

After choosing a homestead and mating, the female lays four huge eggs, their total weight equaling her own body weight. If a fox, raptor or caribou eats or breaks her eggs, a kolea can lay a replacement clutch in a week or so.

As if this reproductive labor isn’t astonishing enough, it all takes place after the 6-ounce birds have flown 3,000 miles over the Pacific Ocean. Nonstop. In three days.

If a nesting attempt fails due to weather or predation, adults can return to Hawaii as early as June. But if all goes well, the couple takes turns keeping the eggs, and later the chicks, warm and protected.

When chicks fledge, that’s the end of family togetherness. Mother plovers leave for Hawaii first, in early August, with fathers following a bit later. Chicks stay in their Arctic birth areas as long as the bugs and berries last, with most arriving here in October or November.

If you see a scrawny bird in a new place, it’s likely a recently landed chick that survived its first migration (on its own — there’s no adult guidance). But the struggle isn’t yet over. New arrivals must establish their own winter territory, often having to fight established plovers and other bird species for space.

Only about 20 percent of kolea chicks live to reproduce.

If you have a plover pecking and hopping around your yard year after year, it’s almost certainly the same bird, because both sexes return to the same wintering spot. And you could have that feathered friend for a long time. Some kolea live for 20 years or more.

Our grassy Easter parade isn’t going to last much longer. All kolea fit to migrate leave Hawaii within a few days of one another around April 25.

I know that countless Hawaii residents join me in wishing our little superbirds fair winds, strapping chicks and bugs galore. A hui hou.


Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com

©2015 Susan Scott

 

Koleas return after a busy season of laying huge eggs

Published August 18, 2014 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2014 Susan Scott

Enormous eggs: Each one is about a quarter of the length of a female kolea. Courtesy Wally Johnson

A couple weeks ago, I had one of those days when my brain felt like an iPod shuffle stuck on fast forward. Deadlines, chores, errands, family and a hundred other things raced through my head until I finally gave up trying to work. Turning off the computer, I went for a walk in a nearby park.

It was a hot, still day and I soon stopped to sit in the shade of a monkeypod tree. And at that exact moment, a Pacific golden plover dropped from the sky and landed in the grass not 20 feet away.

I had just witnessed the arrival of my first kolea of the season.

She was not, however, the first plover to return to Oahu this summer. Nor am I the first person to look up to see a plover descend from the heavens.

Earlier this month a fellow plover lover emailed that her kolea arrived in her yard July 31.

“It landed just as I looked outside, about 6 p.m.” Cindy wrote. “Pretty early this year?”

Yes, July 31 is a bit early, but not extraordinary. The early birds are usually females needing a long tropical vacation from their summer job of laying their enormous eggs.

Each kolea egg is about a quarter the length of the bird and weighs just under an ounce. That may not sound very heavy (an AA battery weighs about an ounce), but it means that a freshly laid clutch of four eggs weighs about the same as the fat-free female, about 3.5 ounces.

She’s bone thin, of course, having used the fat she gained in Hawaii first to fly 3,000 nonstop miles to Alaska, and soon after to develop her eggs. Because the female lays each egg about a day and a half apart, it takes six to seven days to produce a typical nest of four.

But that’s not always the end of her procreative push. If an owl, hawk or other predator eats a plover’s eggs, or a caribou breaks them while tramping through a colony, these formidable females, keeping the same nest and mate, start over. The first egg of the replacement batch appears, amazingly, within a week of the loss.

Lost clutches are common. At one study site from 1993 to 2002, 50 to 100 percent of kolea eggs were crushed or eaten.

No wonder that when their chicks get near fledging, the worn-out moms beat it back to Hawaii, leaving dad and the kids to follow.

I watched my first kolea of the season for 20 minutes, thinking about her miles flown, eggs laid and chicks raised, as well as how these busy bundles of feathers brighten the days of so many people in Hawaii.

Being one of those people, I walked home at peace.


Various shorebirds join plovers in winter migration

Published January 27, 2014 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2014 Susan Scott

Sanderling at Laniakea. Courtesy Scott R. Davis

Hawaii’s Pacific golden plovers, or kolea, get a lot of attention because they graze on lawns, have adapted to the presence of people and return to the same spot year after year. These wonderful birds give us Hawaii residents memorable native wildlife experiences right in our own backyards.

But kolea are just one of the common migratory shorebirds that visit the islands in winter. The others might not dance on our doorsteps, but we don’t have to go far to find them, either.

A morning beach walk on a winter’s day often reveals little sanderlings either alone or in small groups. At 8 inches long, head to tail, the sanderling is so small it’s easy to overlook. This cutest of Hawaii’s shorebirds is also easy to miss because its colors match its favorite hangout, the edge of breaking waves.

The mottled gray and white shorebird’s Hawaiian name, huna­kai, means sea foam. The birds are experts at following receding waves while snatching exposed invertebrates and then running up the beach ahead of the next breaking wave.

Hunakai often race ahead of the incoming water so fast that their short, black legs are a blur, and if a wave outruns them, they use their wings for a vertical escape. It’s at this time we might hear the call of the huna­kai, a short sharp whistle that sounds like “Quit!”

Another common shorebird that I usually hear before I see is the well-named wandering tattler. The Hawaiian name of this bird, ulili, sounds like its call. These 11-inch-long, mostly gray birds usually forage alone on rocky beaches, and like the other shorebirds leave Hawaii in spring to nest in the Arctic tundra.

Ruddy turnstones, the fourth common shorebird wintering in Hawaii, are the easiest to spot. At 9 inches long, ruddy turnstones aren’t much bigger than sanderlings, but these visitors tend to forage in flocks, and their lovely orange, brown, black and white feathers are the colors of calico cats.

And, yes, in their search for food, ruddy turnstones turn stones.

It’s easy to tell sanderlings from Hawaii’s other common shorebirds because sanderlings are the only wave-chasers. But look closely.

“Would you like me to take your picture with the surf?” a nice man on the beach said last week when he saw me aiming my camera toward the big, beautiful waves breaking on the beach.

“No, thanks,” I said. “What I’m trying to shoot is a picture of this bird.”

“Bird?” he said. “What bird?”


Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com

©2014 Susan Scott

Plovers and people do well living close to each other

Published November 4, 2013 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2013 Susan Scott

Is it OK to feed the kola in your yard? A member of the standing-room-only audience asked that of golden plover researcher Dr. Oscar (Wally) Johnson during his recent talk on these shorebirds.

The question was also the subject of two emails I received from readers who were surprised that I would feed my plover, Gracie, scrambled eggs. ” … wildlife experts warn residents never to feed wild animals … ” one wrote. “I hope you heed the advice of experts.”

I do. The expert in this case is Wally Johnson, and he sees no problem in feeding Hawaii’s plovers. In his slideshow, Wally showed a photo of a Kaneohe resident who for 10 years and counting has been buying his kolea mealworms. In the picture, the bird is standing on the man’s hand.

Wally writes in a 2010 paper (“Birds of North America,” Cornell University, bna.birds.cornell.edu) that the birds are very adaptable to coexistence with humans. “Extensive land-clearing in Hawaii … has likely improved wintering conditions for Pacific golden plovers by creating open environments.”

Besides cultivating lawns around our homes and making golf courses, cemeteries, pastures and parks, we have introduced alien creatures to our islands. Hawaii’s plovers pluck earthworms, blind snakes and millipedes from soil and grass, and also eat cockroaches, ants, earwigs, mites and slugs.

Plovers aren’t picky about grass. Some birds do much of their foraging on pavement. One individual Wally knows spends its winters on the AstroTurf fairways of a miniature golf course.

Hawaii’s kolea revert to their wild nature in Alaska, and that includes being good at spotting, and eluding, foxes and birds of prey (and plover researchers.) Wally suspects that this keen ability to protect themselves and their chicks from Arctic predators is why cats and dogs don’t seem be much of a problem for the birds in Hawaii.

Evidence comes from one kolea that Johnson banded and studied at Bellows, an area populated by feral cats. The plover wintered there for 21 years, a longevity record for the species.

Barn owls, however, are a threat to kolea as well as to native shearwaters and petrels. The night-hunting owls were introduced to Hawaii in the 1950s to control rodents, but barn owls also eat sleeping shorebirds and seabirds.

For all their flying, foraging and feather growing (plovers molt twice while in Hawaii), kolea need fat and protein, the main nutrients in eggs and meat. Rice and bread aren’t the best food for plovers, although Wally knows one that winters outside a fast-food joint and routinely snatches french fries from mynah birds.

Today, plovers and people are allies in conservation. We give the birds a hand with habitat and food, and they give us a personal connection with a native bird. In thriving with humans, the kolea show us, in all their glory, the basic principle of life on Earth — adaptation.

We’ve come a long way from shooting 15 plovers per hunter per day. Now, instead of having plovers on toast for breakfast, we cook and serve them eggs.

How lucky we Hawaii residents are to host majesty in our own backyards.


Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com

©2013 Susan Scott

Kolea’s seasonal journey is a beloved ritual in isles

Published October 21 2013 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2013 Susan Scott

Gracie the Pacific golden plover makes an appearance on Susan Scott’s lanai. The birds, called kolea in Hawaiian, winter in the isles. ©2013 Susan Scott

We Hawaii residents love our kolea, the migratory shorebirds that nest in Alaska in summer and spend winters in the islands.

I use the terms summer and winter loosely because the birds, also called Pacific golden plovers, straddle the seasons, spending only about three months in Alaska. The birds leave Hawaii on or around April 25, usually all heading north within a day or two, and begin returning in early August.

It takes about three nonstop days for the birds to reach their Alaska breeding grounds and nearly four days (against the wind) to get back to Hawaii.

First come the females — pooped, I imagine, from laying four eggs and then chasing after foraging chicks to protect them from Arctic predators such as foxes and jaegers. Males arrive next. Newly fledged juveniles get here last, some as late as October.

Here in Hawaii we sometimes see kolea in the early summer months because if they’re underweight or injured, they can’t make the 3,000-mile nonstop trip over the North Pacific, and therefore sit out the breeding season. Healthy, well-nourished birds (weight: 3 to 4 ounces) make the round-trip flight each year.

The reason we islanders know plovers so well is that individuals return to the same wintering spot year after year. If you have a plover in your yard, get used to it. Kolea have a life span of at least 26 years. My plover, a female I call Gracie after her bal­le­rina­like bearing, showed up a year ago on my lawn, where I tossed her chunks of scrambled egg. She ate so eagerly that I microwaved an egg just for her, keeping it in the fridge to dole out in tiny pieces when she came around. Soon Gracie was prancing onto our tiled lanai, charming my friends and family with her elegant appeal for food, which she received in abundance. Gracie left in April, all plump and golden.

When I got home from Tahiti late last month, there was Gracie touching her beak adorably on my screen door, as if to say, “Got eggs?” For this bold beauty who even allows my gentle old dog to sniff her through the screen, boy, do I have eggs.

To learn more about our Pacific golden plovers, come to Windward Community College tonight at 7, where kolea expert Wally Johnson is giving a free talk and slide show called “Kolea Biology Update, 2013: They Continue to Amaze Us.” This Hawaii Audubon Society and Windward Community College event is open to the public in Room 103 of Hale ‘Akoa­koa.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world. See you there.


Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com

©2013 Susan Scott

Golden plovers are back for their Hawaiian feast

Published August 26, 1996 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©1996 Susan Scott

About two weeks ago, I had a golden plover day. My phone rang just as I was getting out of bed. “Sorry to call so early,” a longtime reader’s voice said. “I wanted to tell you that the golden plovers are back.”

“What?” I mumbled.

“The plovers. They’re back in Hawaii. I saw one yesterday at home and another today at work. You know, you haven’t written about plovers in a long time.”

“Thanks for the news,” I said, admiring this bird-lover’s enthusiasm.

A couple of hours later, a surfer friend mentioned that he had seen a sign of summer’s end: A plover was in the beach park. Later that afternoon, I received a notice in the mail announcing a new golden plover publication.

That monograph, which arrived last week, turned out to be a treasure trove of information about these exquisite shorebirds.

Hawaii’s winter visitors, called Pacific golden plovers, make some of the longest migrations in the world, some traveling more than 4,000 miles in nonstop flights over water. Such journeys occur twice a year – in April, when the birds fly to their Arctic breeding grounds, and in August, when they return to their tropical wintering grounds.

The first birds to arrive, and likely what my caller and friend saw, are mature females, pooped from the chores of egg laying and chick rearing. The males, who also sit on eggs and feed hungry mouths, appear next. In October, most of the juveniles arrive.

In Hawaii, golden plovers also called kolea, are unmistakable, prancing on delicate legs in a distinct stop-run-stop motion on beaches, in grassy beach parks and even on paved surfaces. But this dainty dance isn’t for our entertainment. These birds are busy searching for any invertebrates – and some vertebrates – they can find. On the beach, these are snails, crabs, and worms; on the ground it’s pests such as roaches, spiders and slugs. Sometimes, plovers eat small fish, skinks and geckos.

Pacific golden plovers hold a colorful place in the islands’ history.

Some people believe that ancient seafaring Polynesians interpreted the plover’s migration cycle to mean that land lay to the north, thus leading to Hawaii’s human colonization.

Judging from ancient middens, or trash heaps, Hawaii’s early settlers valued plovers for food as well as guidance. Hunters caught the birds with leg snares, using worms for bait.

Plovers are often mentioned in hula chants and Hawaiian folklore. These birds were thought to be the embodiment of Koleamoku, a god of healing and a messenger of chiefs.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, golden plovers were hunted with abandon. Near New Orleans in the spring of 1821, hunters shot about 48,000 of them in a single day. In the 1850s in Portland, Maine, hunters sold dead plovers for 25 cents a dozen, many spoiling before being sold.

Hunters also shot Pacific golden plovers in Hawaii until 1941, often exceeding the daily limit of 15.

Golden plovers are now protected in nearly all of the Western Hemisphere, but hunting still occurs in Barbados, parts of South America, India, China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. About 2,000 birds a year are shot in Java alone.

Researchers believe Hawaii has recovered its former golden plover numbers.

These shorebirds are territorial, usually returning to, and defending, the same wintering spot year after year. If a plover comes to your yard or beach each year, it’s probably the same individual.

Plovers’ feathers change from golden brown in winter to striking breeding colors in spring.

If you get to know one of these birds, you may have a friend for a long time. Golden plovers can live at least 15 years.