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Autochthonous Hawai'i

Kōlea and 'ilima original

Kōlea and 'ilima original

Regular price $150.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $150.00 USD
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Original 5.5"x7.25" illustration.


Kōlea (Pluvialis fulva) and ‘ilima (Sida fallax).

Shorebirds are a group of birds in the order Charadriiformes. Here in Hawai’i, our most common shorebirds are kōlea, ‘ulili/wandering tattlers, kioea/bristle-thighed curlews, hunakai/sanderlings, and ‘akekeke/ruddy turnstones. Some of these species, such as sanderlings, are true travelers, wintering on marine shores all over the world. It may be surprising to know that the ae’o (Hawaiian stilt) is a shorebird! Unlike their more restless cousins, ae’o stick around Hawai’i year round.

Shorebirds are exceptional navigators. The three-thousand-mile trip from Hawai’i to Alaska can take a kōlea only 3-4 days to complete, without stopping for rest. Due to the migratory nature of shorebirds, it also isn’t too rare to get other shorebirds in Hawai’i, such as the occasional black-bellied plover. Even 1,400 miles away on Kure, it was expected to see several atypical shorebirds each winter.

Kōlea have mostly come back from their summer in Alaska. Despite their dainty appearance, these sassy birds are highly territorial, and are quick to squabble over their preferred patch of lawn, garden, or parking lot. At night, they can often be seen on rooftops. Nearing the end of their winter stay, males start to grow their familiar “tuxedo”, or breeding plumage, before leaving for their summer breeding grounds.

‘Ilima is an indigenous plant primarily found in coastal regions. It has a highly variable habit and morphology, and is found throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands and several of the Northwesterns (I was lucky enough to introduce it to Kure!).

Shorebirds are facing population decline globally. There are many threats to these birds, but climate change and habitat loss are generally the most salient.

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