Photo: Koloa
Koloa pair: A pair of “pure” koloa cruising the Hanalei River Valley, Kauaʻi. Distinguishing between pure and hybrid koloas can be challenging even for experts. True koloa will have straight (uncurled) tail coverts, white eye rings, and fully marked back/scapular feathers. - Photo: Gary Kramer/ USFWS

One of the great chiefs of Kaʻū was the warrior Imaikalani.

He was a man of immeasurable strength and for many years he was undefeated in battle. Other chiefs wondered about the source of his power because Imaikalani was blind. One day, a challenger named Piʻimaiwaʻa from Puna spied on Imaikalani during his training and saw two koloa ducks flying overhead directing Imiakalani’s spear and club. Armed with this knowledge, Piʻimaiwaʻa killed the koloa and subdued Imaikalani, the giant of Kaʻū.

Today, Hawaiʻi’s native duck, koloa maoli (Anas wyvilliana), is not typically seen in Kaʻū – although current wetland and loko iʻa restoration efforts may again establish a viable waterbird habitat.

Pure populations of koloa maoli exist only on Kauaʻi due to widespread hybridization with the introduced mallard. You can catch a glimpse of koloa hybrids on most of the main islands. Look for their mottled dark brown plumage, defined golden chevrons, and bright emerald speculums.

Photo: Coastal rehabilitation
Honuapo: Coastal rehabilitation including the removal of sediment and invasive weeds from Honuapo loko iʻa (fishpond) is a priority for the community of Kaʻū. – Photo: Lisa L.K. Mason/ LOHE Lab