Birds of Kīlauea Point
Pacific Golden Plover / Pluvialis fulva / Kōlea
The summer or breeding plumage is very colorful. The new feathers on their backs are black with gold and white flecks. They have a black belly with a white stripe from the eye down the neck to the belly.
For the last couple of weeks before they leave the islands, you can easily tell females from males. Males are molting into their breeding plumage and sport a tuxedo-like appearance as they strut their new colors for the summer. Females turn golden on top, and may even get some black feathers underneath, but never as many as the males. With their new breeding plumage and fattened bellies, the plovers are ready to migrate to their breeding grounds in the arctic.
Upon arrival in August, these shorebirds establish winter feeding territories on lawns and golf courses and natural habitats in open fields island-wide. Kōlea migrate to their Arctic breeding grounds every spring.
Feeding is different for shorebirds as compared to seabirds. Kōlea eat a variety of items including insects, crustaceans, berries, leaves, and seeds. Kōlea can eat marine and freshwater invertebrates, too. It is interesting watching the shorebirds forage for food by a sequence of stop-run-stop! They will scan an area for food and then peck at it until it is captured. In Hawai‘i, kōlea feed on weevils, crustaceans and even snails!
Kōlea migrate 2,200 miles from Hawai‘i to the Arctic tundra for nesting.