The Pacific Golden Plovers, known more commonly in Hawai`i as Kōlea, are part-time residents of The John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Kaka`ako campus. Many of us look forward to the arrival of the migratory birds each August, and can’t help but admire the stunning changes in their appearance as April approaches.
Their face and neck turn coal black with a bright white border, and their breasts darken to black as well. They are “getting all dressed up” for their annual flight in April to breed and nest in the Artic tundra from northernmost Asia to western Alaska.
The birds are quite territorial, and usually return every August to the same spots on campus, and everywhere else they appear regularly in Hawai`i. We couldn’t resist snapping some shots of them in their tuxedo-style breeding plumage.
Seemingly in rehearsal, we caught one if the magnificent birds mid-stride, on the tiled portion of our courtyard. We’d like to imagine he was practicing “stepping out” for a night on the bird version of the town.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, Kōlea on O`ahu have been seen gathering by the hundreds on a wide plain at the North Shore refuge days before their departure. They then take to the air together, flying non-stop for 48 hours, to their nesting destination.
Story and photos by Tina Shelton.