Maui’s Kealia Wetlands, a National Wildlife Reserve, is a 700 acre home to a variety of Hawaiian waterbirds. The Reserve was established in 1992 and is a natural basin for the 56-mile watershed in the West Maui Mountains. A boardwalk over ponded areas allows close-up viewing of native Hawaiian waterbird species as well as migratory waterbirds who come from as far away as Asia, Canada, and Alaska. The ponds were initially created by entrepreneurs beginning an aquaculture catfish venture which closed in 1995. Subsequently the ponds were restored by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Maui’s Kealia Wetlands Reserve supports one of the largest concentrations of wetland birds in Hawai`i. It is an important breeding, feeding, and resting area for endangered Hawaiian Stilts and Hawaiian Coots, and the refuge was created to protect these two species in particular. During spring and summer when water levels recede, the refuge may harbor almost half the entire population of Hawaiian Stilts. Kealia Pond also supports a variety of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl from August-April. Some species occur primarily during migration, but others are present throughout the winter months. Over 30 additional species of migrants use the wetland on a regular basis, and numerous vagrants have appeared over the years, making Kealia Pond one of the top sites for wetland birding in Hawai`i.
The large central pond undergoes an annual cycle of flooding in winter and drying in summer. The hydrological and biological changes associated with this cycle are important in maintaining a healthy wetland. Water depth ranges from approximately 20 cm in summer to 145 cm in winter. The variable water depth and extensive mudflats that surround the pond provide valuable foraging habitat for a variety of birds. Several small islands provide predator-free nesting habitat, and additional nesting habitat is present among shoreline vegetation that surrounds the pond.
More information about the Kealia Wetlands can be found at the Audobon Website
Additional images of the boardwalk and beach can be found on a previous post.