Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This Week in Nature: The 2nd week in August

What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 2nd week in August:

The first kōlea are arriving in the islands now, completing their flight of 3000 miles or more from their breeding grounds in Siberia and Alaska.

Clocked at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, kōlea make the trip non-stop and theoretically could fly twice as far as they do. Adults come first, leaving young birds to fatten up another month before the long flight to winter quarters. 

Kōlea molt from brown to nearly black before the return in April, but in any season, their plumage is flecked with the gold feathers that earned them the name golden plover.

Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr

Its beauty and behavior have made the kōlea one of the islands' most closely watched birds. In Hawaiian sayings, it appears as a metaphor for independence, wanderlust, mystery, transience, and ingratitude. In legends, it serves as a messenger of the gods.

Plovers were netted for food, but killing them wastefully was not tolerated. A story tells of kōlea pecking to death a man who caught more than he needed.
lea on Oahu leave for their breeding grounds on April 25th, plus or minus only a couple of days! Scientists have discovered that this is one of the most precise internal calendars in the animal kingdom.

Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr

Text and illustration taken from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"  
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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