Koa‘e kea (Phaethon lepturus), also known as the white tailed tropicbird, can often be seen in Hawai'i soaring majestically high in the clouds, especially by the ocean.
Its genus name, Phaëthon, comes from Greek mythology and means ‘radiant’ or ‘to shine’. Like the mōlī (Laysan Albatross), these birds spend most of their lives at sea suspended on wind currents traveling hundreds of miles to find fish and only coming to land to nest. They nest in sea cliffs and deep in the backs of valleys from Kaua‘i to Hawai‘i island and throughout the tropics. Protection of their nesting colonies on tropical islands ensures that we continue to catch our breath in awe when spotting one of these beautiful white birds sailing high in the clouds.
- David Shepard