Birds of Keālia Pond
Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is valuable for its endangered ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt) and ‘alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot), providing nesting, feeding and resting habitat. More than 1,079 ae‘o and 584 ‘alae ke‘oke‘o have been observed here at one time.
Ae‘o (Hawaiian stilt) - The Hawaiian name for "one standing tall" aptly describes this black and white bird with its long, slender pink legs.
‘Alae ke‘oke‘o (Hawaiian coot) - The coot can be recognized by its white bill and frontal shield which contrasts with its dark body. Called “mudmuckers” in the southern states, these birds are visible whether water is low or high.
Koloa (Hawaiian duck) - Both male and female have orange legs and feet and resemble small female mallards. The native ducks are infrequently seen at Keālia Pond as hybridization with local mallard ducks has become a growing problem.
‘Auku‘u (Black-crowned night heron) – Both adults and juveniles are seen on the refuge flying overhead or stalking fish. Their loud guttural squawk as they fly will alert you to their presence.
Shorebirds seen in Hawai‘i are migrants. They breed in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia and spend their winters in the tropics. At Keālia Pond NWR, they forage at the outlet and mudflats on the refuge, picking invertebrates and small fish from the mud and shallow water.
Kōlea (Pacific golden plover) - In August, both males and females come back to the same territory in Hawai‘i year after year, and each spring around April 25, leave their wintering grounds for nesting grounds in Alaska and Siberia. It takes two full days to reach their destination flying nonstop at approximately 60 mph.
Hunakai (Sanderling) - Hunakai means ‘sea foam’ in Hawaiian, and in the sea foam is where this bird gets its food. They run up and down the beach with each wave, picking up invertebrates from the wet sand.
‘Akekeke (Ruddy turnstone) - Named in Hawaiian for its call - a rapidly repeated trill. These birds are also found in Hawaiian legends as messengers of the gods along with the kōlea and the ‘ulili. Hawaiian chiefs and gods sent these intelligent and strong birds over the open ocean on important assignments.
‘Ulili (Wandering tattler) - In Hawaiian culture, the ‘ulili was one of the sacred messengers and scouts. Likewise, in English, it was nicknamed ‘tattler’ by hunters because it is a good ‘watch-bird,’ alarming all the other birds when hunters or predators are nearby.
Migratory waterfowl seen at the refuge are from North America and eastern Asia. They arrive in the fall when rain swells the pond. Pintail and shoveller are the most abundant species here, but wigeons, teals, and scaup are here as well.
Northern Pintail - Pintails are long, slender ducks with long, narrow wings, earning them the nickname "greyhound of the air." Pintails are named for their elongated central tail feathers, which constitute one-fourth of the drake's body length.
Northern Shoveler - Perhaps the most visible diagnostic characteristic of the northern shoveler is its large, spoon shaped bill, which widens towards the tip and creates a shape unique among North American waterfowl.