Koloa Iki is reaching out
You have probably heard the saying, "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." While the Koloa Maoli (Hawaiian Duck) is indeed a duck, it is not the Mallard that it resembles and may be confused with. The Koloa is actually an endemic and endangered Hawaiian species while the Mallard is introduced. The island of Kaua‘i has almost all of the purebred Koloa Maoli in the Hawaiian Islands (they can interbreed with domestic ducks) so the island is a real Noah’s Ark for the species.
The Koloa recently became the star of a new outreach campaign to highlight climate change by the Hawai‘i Climate Change Commission and their partners. A website, KOLOA IKI, features the fun and educational character “Koloa Iki” and talks about sea level rise, and resultant salt water flooding.
Koloa rely on freshwater wetlands for food and shelter. They don’t generally breed in waters that are too salty, so salt water intrusion matters to these birds as well as the human inhabitants of the islands. The campaign is supported by renowned Hawaiian artist Solomon Enos who designed the cute logo.
This little duck is a survivor–so far!
Prior to the arrival of people, there were about a dozen waterfowl species on the islands. Most were flightless, including one that had a beak like a tortoise. With human visitation and settlement, the majority of the native ducks and geese were quickly wiped out, but the little Koloa survived since they had retained the power of flight. Studies from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge show that Koloa there still make a daily flight up to the Alakaʻi swamp to forage for food.
Interested in spotting a Koloa?
The birds can be hard to find. They are quite cryptic, and spend a lot of time hiding in vegetation. When they aren’t moving, they can look suspiciously like a fallen coconut. You might spot them at the Hanalei Refuge or the Makauwahi Cave Reserve, both on Kauaʻi. Look out for them next time you visit!
State of Hawaiʻi Fact Sheet: Koloa Maoli: The Hawaiian Duck
Helen Raine, Hawaiʻi's Pacific Birds Conservation Specialist, joined Anukriti Hittle, Hawai'i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Coordinator, to talk about how the Koloa is helping the community rethink climate change. Find the link at Kaua'i Community Radio. (Scroll down to Makai Watch, aired January 11.)