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A Hui Hou, Kōlea

May 6, 2017, 8:30 AM HST
* Updated May 5, 8:28 AM
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A Pacific golden plover, or kōlea, at Hilo Bayfront, March 2017. Photo: Crystal Richard.

The Pacific golden plover, or 14, departed around April 25 for their 3,000-mile-long journey back to Alaska for the nesting season.

Kōlea are migratory shorebirds that spend winters in Hawai‘i and nest in Alaska in the summertime.

The nonstop trip takes around three days.

The plovers are signaled to fly to Alaska by the lengthening of daylight hours; however, it is unknown how they coordinate their departure. The birds gather in flocks over a few days, then suddenly take flight and disappear.

Only the sick and/or weak birds will spend the summer in Hawai‘i.

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During their three months in Alaska, the kōlea lay and hatch generally four eggs each. Once hatched, they will teach their young to catch their own food.

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To avoid the harsh Alaskan winter, in early August, the adults will leave the chicks to fend for themselves, making their nonstop trip back to the islands after nearly four days flying against the wind.

The chicks will make their own flight to Hawai‘i in October.

Because the birds return to the same location each year, many in Hawai‘i give them names.

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