Shorebirds of Hulē‘ia


Shorebirds seen in Hawai‘i are migrants. They breed in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia and spend their winters in the tropics. At Hulē‘ia NWR, they forage at the outlet and mudflats on the refuge, picking invertebrates and small fish from the mud and shallow water. They may also be seen in the fields, foraging for insects.

  • ‘Akekeke

    Turnstone thumbnail

    The ruddy turnstone is named ‘akekeke 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.


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  • Kōlea

    Plover thumbnail

    Both males and females come back to the same territory in Hawai‘i year after year, and each spring around April 25, they leave their wintering grounds for nesting grounds in Alaska and Siberia. It takes the plovers two full days to reach their destination flying nonstop at approximately 60 mph.

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  • ‘Ulili

    Tattler thumbnail

    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.


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