News

Public Urged to Help Protect Native Seabirds

November 18, 2017, 10:00 AM HST
* Updated November 17, 2:07 PM
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A native Hawaiian seabird known as the Wedgetailed Shearwater stands in front of a burrow. Photo credit: Lindsay Young.

The Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is asking the public to help protect against the “fallout” of Native Hawaiian seabirds. Between the months of September and December, young birds make their maiden flights out to sea and often become disoriented by artificial lights, according to DLNR.

Hawaiian seabirds normally rely on the light of the moon to guide them to sea upon leaving their nests for the first time. Artificial lights from human development often distract the birds from their natural instincts, drawing them to circle man-made lights until they become exhausted and fall to the ground.

When grounded, they are at risk of attack by cats, mongoose and other predators, as well as vehicle collisions and starvation. Fallout birds are often seen landing or sitting on roadways, parking lots and lawns, according to DLNR. The public is urged to help protect these birds by turning lights down at night and rescuing downed birds if they are found.

DLNR says Hawaiian seabirds play important roles in the Hawaiian Islands. They were traditionally used by ancient Hawaiian navigators to return to land. Today, the birds help fishermen locate schools of ahi and help maintain our watersheds by fertilizing the soil with marine nutrients.

Businesses and homeowners are encouraged to do the following:

  • Turn all outdoor lights so that they are facing down to the ground, and use downward lighting for signs;
  • Turn off decorative and unnecessary lights as much as possible;
  • Replace bare spotlights, floodlights and unshielded lights with seabird friendly lighting styles (including shielding the lights to prevent them from facing upwards and using non-white or lower wattage lamps);
  • Place floodlights and security lights on motion detectors so that they are not on all the time;
  • Shield outdoor lights with commercially available or home-made glare reducing shields;
  • Close curtains at night to help reduce overall glow and glare; and
  • Keep dogs and cats indoors so that they are not able to attack and kill grounded birds outside.
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For illustrations and guidance related to seabird-friendly light styles, visit the the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) website.

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The public is asked to especially watch for the threatened and endangered native seabird species like Newell’s shearwaters (A‘o) and Hawaiian petrels (Ua‘u), as well as the more common Wedge-tailed shearwater (Ua‘u kani).

Wedge-tailed shearwater chicks that are found outside burrows on coastal trails and beaches should be left in place unless there is imminent danger of harm due to dogs, cats or some other activity. These chicks, prior to their first flight, will normally sit outside their burrows exercising and imprinting on their natal area before leaving the nest.

Anyone finding a fallen or injured seabird is asked to do the following:

  1. Determine if it needs to be rescued: Young birds often stay near their nest burrows and do not need intervention. These birds will not need to be rescued and should be left alone. If you are uncertain of whether the bird needs help, please call the Division of Forestry and Wildlife or Hawai‘i Wildlife Center for assistance.
  2. If a bird is found unresponsive or in an unsecure environment (i.e. side of the road, next to a building, etc.), it needs to be rescued.
  3. Find and prepare an appropriate sized, well ventilated carrier (air holes).
  4. Place a clean, soft cloth at bottom of carrier, such as a T-shirt.
  5. With caution, approach bird from behind and use a lightweight towel to gently pick it up and transport it to the carrier.
  6. Place the container in a quiet and dark place, away from people, animals and loud noises.
  7. DO NOT give food or water to the bird and do not leave any in the container.
  8. Note the time and location of where you found the bird.
  9. Transport the bird to a designated drop off location if available, licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility or any veterinary clinic as soon as possible. See island-specific contact information and licensed rehabbers.
  10. Birds can be held overnight if transportation to a drop-off location is not immediately available. Keep the carrier inside or in an enclosed garage away from people and animals until it can be transported.
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For more information, visit the DLNR website.

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