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Manu Minute: The bristle-thighed curlew

Like the kōlea, kioea travel to Hawaiʻi for the winter. While adults generally fly back to Alaska to breed in early May, juveniles prefer a longer holiday. They can stay in the islands for up to three years before returning to Alaska for their first breeding season.

As a result, you can spot kioea year-round in Hawaiʻi, primarily in typical shorebird habitats like wetlands, shorelines, and grassy areas — not to mention the odd golf course.

You'll still have to get a little bit lucky to catch a glimpse of one of these long-billed birds. They favor the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, where there are fewer predators to contend with. They're especially vulnerable when they're molting, as they can't fly until they have a full coat of feathers.

But kioea have been visiting the main Hawaiian islands for hundreds of years. In fact, they're one of a handful of birds mentioned in the Kumulipo. The word “kioea” means to stand high, as on long legs.

Kioea share their name with an endemic Hawaiian bird, which went extinct over one hundred years ago. The last specimen of its species was collected in 1859.

AMTJ_Manu Minute, Kioea spectrogram video.mp4

Audio credit:  Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (ML207298)

Patrick Hart interests in the ecology and conservation of Hawaiian forests and forest birds stem from years of living in a primitive field camp as a graduate student in the 1990’s at Hakalau Forest National wildlife refuge.
Ann Tanimoto-Johnson is the Lab Manager & Research Technician in the Hart Lab/Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems (LOHE) Bioacoustics Lab. She researches the ecology, bioacoustics, and conservation of our native Hawaiian forests, birds, and bats.
Savannah Harriman-Pote rejoined The Conversation in 2021 after interning for Hawaiʻi Public Radio in the summers of 2018 and 2019. She also produces HPR's podcast Manu Minute in collaboration with The University of Hawaii at Hilo. She was born and raised on the Big Island, and she collects public radio mugs.
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