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Managing Waterbirds:

Kilo, Pilina and Mālama


 Waterbirds have co-existed with people since the start of Hawaiian agriculture, and loʻi kalo, or taro farms continue to be a common habitat for many waterbird species. To take care of waterbirds and maintain populations, many kalo farmers implement the practices of kilo (observation), pilina (building relationship), and malama (taking care).



“Pilina” can be broken down to its root words - pili, and na. Pili grass is a native grass (Heteropogon contortus) commonly used for thatching and known for the way it twists together and tangles. Na references the multiple connections created. Pilina describes an intimate relationship between people, place and resources (Andrade, 2011). Pilina is enhanced by repeated interaction between people and place and is a foundation for ʻāina restoration, education, cultural revitalization and reconnection of community to place.

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“Kilo” means to watch, observe, examine or forecast. Observation is a powerful tool that can allow us to not only see and track our resources, but also listen to place for guidance in decision making for management and pono (correct or proper) practices. This is why kilo is a key factor in caring for our native species. Understanding what species are present, how many, where, and what they’re doing help inform us of best restoration practices. A few loʻi in windward Oʻahu are using citizen science to kilo manu, input your own observation if you're visiting Ulupō, Hoʻokuaʻaina, or Heʻeia.

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Mālama means to take care of, to protect and watch over. To mālama ʻāina is to steward and restore land. Many Hawaiian waterbird species are “conservation reliant.” They rely on land protection and active management of wetlands to enhance habitat and species health.

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