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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 29, 2005


Remaining kolea have peace pact

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

A whole new chapter in kolea lore — the true adventures of Gimpy, Hopper, Skinny and Junior — has begun since nearly all the golden plover departed for Alaska at the end of April. A few days later, I was making my morning round of the cinder track behind Kaimuki High School when I stopped and stared in amazement.

The kolea that hangs out in the least desirable corner behind a fence was still there. For the first time, I looked closely at him and realized that he couldn't walk. He hopped. I called him Hopper. The next day, Hopper had come out from the corner to hop around one of the playing fields usually occupied by half a dozen kolea.

Wait, there's more. In a day or so, Skinny appeared. She's an undersized female as thin as a fashion model. Then Gimpy showed up. Like Hopper, he's a handsome, healthy male except that he walks with a limp.

By this time I had decided that some kolea do, indeed, stay in Hawai'i and that the evidence indicates that those who don't go have some sort of physical limitation. Being crippled, Gimpy and Hopper would probably lose out in the competition for females in Alaska, which is fierce. Skinny is so thin, she'd never survive the flight.

As the days passed, I developed another theory because stay-behind kolea don't behave as they do during the winter. The kolea I've watched during the winter come back to their own territory and stay there. But Hopper left his to go exploring. I saw Gimpy and Skinny in the opposite of the three playing fields last week. So they are moving around, trying out new places.

Here's what I think. Kolea normally come back to their established place because they've learned over thousands of years that it is easier than fighting for new territory every time. That's probably how land ownership developed.

Now Hopper and Skinny and Gimpy don't have to fight for new territory. They can go where they want unchallenged. It's true that they seem to prefer certain places. But I've never seen Hopper back in the undesirable spot he occupied all winter.

There's one more aspect of behavior of stay-back kolea that's even more intriguing. In a provocative way, it's like the mythology of the ancient Hawaiians. Skinny and Gimpy have paired up. I've never seen that in the winter. They're always together now. Then just last week, Junior, an underdeveloped male, joined them. They go around in a group. It's as if competition has been suspended.

That's what happened during the Makahiki in Hawai'i. During most of the year, when the chiefs were fighting over land, people worshipped Ku, the god of war. But for a few months, Lono, the god of peace and reproduction, took over. People feasted, played games. War was forbidden.

The stay-back kolea don't fight over territory. Instead, they hang out together. You don't suppose Hawaiians got the idea from migratory birds like the kolea?