Pacific Golden Plover

Pluvialis fulva / Kōlea
Pacific Golden Plover

The kōlea as they are known in Hawai‘i, have long legs, a short tail, and very pointy wings. Their jet black bill is short and their coal-colored eyes are big. They have two different kinds of plumage during their annual life cycle. During the winter, they have dark brownish feathers with gold spots on their backs and light brown necks and bellies. As April approaches, these shorebirds begin to molt, shedding their old feathers and replacing them with new ones.

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 sport a tuxedo-like appearance as they strut their new colors for the summer. Females turn golden on top, and may even have some black feathers underneath, but never as many as the males. With breeding plumage and fattened bellies, the plovers are ready to migrate to their breeding grounds in the arctic.

Feeding is different for shorebirds when compared to seabirds. While shorebirds forage on and in the ground, shores, and wetlands, seabirds are particular about a purely marine diet! 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 in the soil until the prey 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. Both males and females return to the same territory in Hawai‘i year after year, and each spring around April 25, the kōlea leave their wintering grounds for arctic nesting grounds in Alaska and Siberia. It takes the kōlea two full days to reach their destination flying nonstop at approximately 60 mph.

Facts About Pacific Golden Plover

Invertebrates, berries, leaves, and seeds.
Life Span
15 years
Length: 23–26 cm (9-10 in); wingspan: 44 cm (17 in)