A Long Way from Hawaii…and the Ocean!
The kōlea spend long winters in Hawai‘i, arriving from Russia and Alaska in August and returning to the tundra in April. They cover an astonishing 3,000 miles, a nonstop transoceanic flight estimated to take between 50 to 60 hours and considered one of the most difficult migrations in the animal kingdom (Stone and Pratt, 21). It is believed they fly at a 20,000-foot elevation.
When they first arrive in Hawai‘i, the kōlea sport a flecked gold and brown plumage, but by late April, most males are further adorned with a dramatic breeding plumage of a black face, breast and throat, with a white stripe from atop each eye that traces the outline of its wing.