- Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is of primary importance for endangered Hawaiian stilt and Hawaiian coot. Intermittent flooding and siltation created shallow mud flat areas, pickleweed flats, native sedge margins, and expanses of open water, that provide suitable resting, feeding and nesting habitat for endangered waterbirds. The drying of the pond in the spring benefits these native birds. 'Ae'o (Hawaiian stilts) time their nesting so that their young can probe for invertebrates and small fish in the newly-exposed mud.
Copyright: - US Fish and Wildlife Service
Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge
The pond also supports diverse resident and migratory bird populations. It is one of the most important areas in the State for wintering migratory waterfowl. Migratory shorebirds also congregate here to take advantage of food exposed as the pond recedes. As the pond shrinks, fish are crowded into the remaining water, making them easy prey for 'auku'u (black-crowned night-herons).
The main body of the pond is separated from the Pacific Ocean by a narrow band of coastal sand dunes and N. Kihei Rd. Kealia Pond acts as a natural sump within the floodplain of its 56 square miles watershed. At the turn of the twentieth century, this natural basin was six to eight feet deep, but since then it has filled in with silt-laden runoff from agricultural fields. Today it averages one to two feet of brackish water covering 50-400 acres, depending on the season. The great majority of the land surrounding the pond is planted in sugar cane. In summer, the pond often shrinks to less than half its winter size, leaving a crust of pure crystalline salt at its margins. Kealia (pronounced keh-AH-lee-ah) means "the salt-encrusted place," and Hawaiians gathered salt here for centuries.
Recreation - The refuge is a popular site for schools and environmental education programs. An interpretive kiosk and boardwalk are planned along the beach and refuge mudflats. Visitors will be able to view the many bird species of the refuge, take in the beauty of the beach, and whale watch from this site.
Climate - The climate of this Pacific Island is sunny, hot and dry throughout the year. Winter months are somewhat cooler. Light comfortable clothing and walking shoes are appropriate for all seasons. Sunscreen and hats with visors are recommended for skin protection.
Kealia Pond NWR lies adjacent to Maalaea Bay along the south central coast of the island of Maui, Hawaii, near the town of Kihei.