The New Banner: The Three Birds

If youʻre a reg­u­lar at my blog, you will notice some­thing fun — a brand new ban­ner! Itʻs not just pret­ty art (by tal­ent­ed local artist Dru San­ti­a­go.) Itʻs got some cool Hawaiʻi (and Hawai­ian) fea­tures, too.

To begin, weʻll look at just one: the three birds. 

Spot them in the ban­ner above? Cute, right? But theyʻre not just any birds.

Hawaii-koleaFirst there are three, for a rea­son. Three is my favorite num­ber. Lots of things come in threes — three wish­es, the triple crown, three parts of an atom, three-part sto­ry struc­ture, three mus­ke­teers, junken­po — but  most impor­tant to me are my three daughters.

The birds in the ban­ner are kōlea, Pacif­ic gold­en plover, and one of my favorite birds. Every year these lit­tle migra­to­ry birds spend the sum­mer in Alas­ka rais­ing their babies and then fly thou­sands of miles home to Hawaiʻi in the winter. 

Itʻs always a joy when they return in July or August. They come back skin­ny — itʻs hard work fly­ing so many miles non­stop — and enjoy our mild win­ters, get­ting all fat and fluffy. 

Kōlea tend to return to the same Hawaiʻi neigh­bor­hoods each year, and Iʻm always hap­py when I see them on our Cen­tral Oʻahu street. I can tell theyʻre around when I hear their dis­tinc­tive keek-KEEK!

When kōlea are home, they can be found every­where — in parks, on roof tops, in park­ing lots, at the shore.

They leave for Alas­ka in April and May. We can always tell when theyʻre ready to leave because they grow a win­ter coat of black feath­ers on their bel­lies, like the lit­tle guy to the left up there in the banner.

The Hawaiʻi Audubon Soci­ety keeps track of the com­ings and goings of kōlea and encour­age the pub­lic to get involved. Kōlea have long, slen­der legs, and because they can be found every­where, they may have unfor­tu­nate encoun­ters with cats or ʻio (Hawai­ian hawks) or cars. The Audubon web­site pro­vides guid­ance on help­ing any injured lit­tle friends you might come across.

And now a cul­tur­al note. In Hawaiʻi, being a human kolea is an insult. Think about it this way: kolea come, enjoy the weath­er, eat, have a good ole time, eat some more, take what they want … and then clear out, leav­ing their mess behind. In Hawai­ian, this is mahaʻoi, and for peo­ple, not a good look. So be a bet­ter vis­i­tor (or col­lege stu­dent or uni­ver­si­ty researcher or snow bird), and get to know us while youʻre here. You might become our non-native ally, and our com­mu­ni­ty def­i­nite­ly needs more of those.

Next time: whatʻs with that red and white blan­ket design in the ban­ner? Hint: itʻs palaka!

To learn more about the kolea, vis­it the Kolea Count web­site at Images from the Kolea Count website.


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