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Posts Tagged ‘birding in Hawaii’

Pacific Golden-Plovers

Posted by E.G.D. on May 23, 2012

A Pacific Golden-Plover in full breeding plumage. (Photo by tinyfroglet from Flickr)

My graduate school Alma Mater is the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and let me tell you, the campus is positively covered with Pacific golden-plovers, especially during the months of the standard school year (apparently, the lanky, mottled-gold little guys “winter” in Hawaii and on other Pacific islands, but breed in Siberia and Alaska from May through July).  Here’s the funny thing, though… I never before really thought of them as shorebirds.  UHM is up in the valley, a good 30 to 40 minute walk from the shore.  However, according to pretty much everything I’ve found, they are shorebirds, and they’re usually referred to as “waders” by books and articles.  So, basically my project for today is figuring out on what shores they can be found.

Here’s one with more everyday plumage (Photo from USFWS Alaska Image Library)

The first place I found a note about the Pacific golden-plovers on an actual shore was on the state of Hawaii’s government website.  The quote is as follows: “estimated wintering densities range from 0.22 to 44.7 birds per hectare in wild habitats such as forest trails and coastal mudflats.”  So that’s it!  They like mudflats.  No wonder I’ve seen so few of them on the soft sands.  Incidentally, I added the bold, italic, and underline in the above quote (for dramatic emphasis, of course ^_^.  Watch for a repeat performance).  It’s not, strictly speaking, part of the quote.  On a different note, the line that immediately follows that quote is “densities in developed habitats in Hawai‘i have been estimated as 1.4 birds per hectare on golf courses and 5.2 birds per hectare on lawns,” and honestly, I strongly associate them with UHM’s lawns.  It’s all coming together!

E.G.D. on campus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Next, I found this on the Audubon WatchList website: “these plovers adapt to an array of winter habitat, much of it altered by humans. They are found in coastal salt marshes, beaches, mangroves, fields, clearings in heavily wooded areas, airport runways, military bases, golf courses, cemeteries, athletic fields, and residential lawns.”  There we have it!  The Audubon Society should know what they’re talking about, right?  And here they are saying that Pacific golden-plovers can be found on beaches!  I guess I need to work on keeping my eyes open and trying to spot one on a beach, rather than on somebody’s front lawn.  I should have plenty of opportunity, goodness knows, because they can be found all over the place.  The Audubon site says that “the winter range of this species is spread out over about half of the world’s circumference. It occupies upland and coastal habitats ranging from Hawaii to Japan, from the South Pacific through southern Asia and the Middle East to northeast Africa. It also winters in specific areas of coastal California, and probably in Baja California, the Revillagigedo and Galapagos Islands, and Chile as well.”  It looks like Australia and New Zealand are included in the term “South Pacific” here, because the article lists both of those countries as places the bird can be spotted. That gives the birdwatchers of the world one heck of a lot of coastline to comb!

If you happen to spot a Pacific golden-plover on a coast somewhere, please drop us a line!  We’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories.  If you simply want to brag a bit, there’s always the comment block below, as well.  Mahalo, and have a great day at the beach- E.G.D.

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

No ~Hula~ for the Red-Footed Booby!

Posted by Greg on April 25, 2012

Often seen perched on coastal trees and shrubs, the colorful Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) lives and breeds on tropical and subtropical islands and atolls of the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and the three seas north of Australia.

Adult Red-Footed Booby With Chick. (Photo:GSH1967/Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies don’t have an elaborate mating dance. Nesting on land, these handsome sea birds breed throughout the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWMI) and at limited sites on the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI).  Red-footed boobies, or ′ā (as they are known in Hawaii), are the only boobies that commonly nest in small trees and shrubs. Egg laying usually peaks from February through April, with the ′ā producing only one egg per season. Equal opportunity guardians, both the males and females share in incubation duties. The young are ready to fly around September. The doting parents feed their young for up to 4 months after fledging (developing wing feathers large enough for flight).

White Morph Red-footed Booby in Flight Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

White Morph Red-footed Booby (Photo:PD-USGov-FWS)

Red-footed boobies have been known to follow, and sometimes land, on ships and fishing boats. They feed mostly on squid and fish and can snatch a flying fish, their favorite food, out of the air. Like their blue-footed relatives, they are great divers and have keen eyesight to spot their prey. They can dive from as high as 26 feet to capture their dinner.

Red-footed boobies are the smallest of all the boobies. They measure 28 to 30 inches in length and have a wing span of  around 4 1/2  feet. Unlike their blue-footed relatives, they aren’t very uniform in appearance.  Almost all Hawaiian birds of this species are white, however, according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The Red-footed Booby comes in a confusing array of color morphs, ranging from individuals that are all white except for blackish on the wing, to individuals that are entirely dark brown. Some birds fail to fit neatly into any of the typical color morph categories, and many variations exist. Color morphs do not segregate reproductively or geographically; individuals representing several morphs breed in a single colony.”

Like their booby cousins, they are unafraid of people and easy to capture. In some areas these birds are used for food. Poaching, coupled with other encroachments on their habitat (e.g., insects, rats and feral cats), is resulting in the appearance of declining numbers.

Red-Footed Booby, Kauai, Hawaii (Photo:DickDaniels/Wikimedia Commons)

Jody and I hope that our next Hawaiian vacation will take us to the island of Kauai. We’ll definitely plan a visit to Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where we now know to be on the lookout for these very interesting and beautiful coastal birds!

-Now, can someone please tell me how to pronounce ′ā?

Have a great day birding at the beach! Aloha! 

Related links: Hawaii’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy

Boobies? Seriously, Boobies, Blue-Footed Booby

National Geographic, Red-Footed Booby

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beaches of The Hawaiian Islands | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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