Slow down for long-distance aviators

A kolea is back in Hawaii after returning from northern locales. U.S. Navy photo

A kolea is back in Hawaii after returning from northern locales. U.S. Navy photo

Becky Hommon

Navy Region Hawaii, Environmental Counsel

Welcome home to our returning long-distance aviators, the Pacific golden plover, locally known as the kolea.

We know it’s August because, one by one, these long-legged over-ocean flyers are making their way some 3,000 miles from their summer nesting sites in Alaska and other northern locales back to their chosen Hawaii lawns.

Looking a little bedraggled and scruffy, they are working hard to replenish their weakened bodies. Feeding intently on worms and bugs, these skilled navigators, protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, may not notice that they have drifted into traffic. Please slow down for them as they have been away and are once again not used to urban life and traffic.

Dr. Cory Campora, natural resources manager for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, noted that these migratory birds may be decreasing in number due to rising sea levels and habitat pressures. He said that their 3,000-mile/3-day flight may be the longest non-stop migration of any birds.

“They can be so focused on chasing an insect, they won’t notice that they’re in the middle of the road,” Campora said.

If your ears haven’t yet tuned to the call of these very special birds, watch for them in the evening. They make a two-tone distinctive chirp as they take flight. You can marvel at their navigational skills and enjoy their signaling call until next tax day or mid-April when they will once again head north to nest and lay their eggs.

Welcome home, kolea!

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Category: News