Mauians Asked to Look Out for Endangered Seabirds

October 22, 2012, 11:30 AM HST · Updated October 22, 11:31 AM
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An ‘ua’u being released after biologists received a call to pick up this grounded bird. File photo 2010 Courtesy Haleakala National Park.

By Wendy Osher

Fledgling season for endangered seabirds in the Hawaiian Islands runs from October through December, prompting a reminder to the public to be on the look out for disoriented or grounded seabirds.

During the fledgling season, the Hawaiian Petrel (`Ua`u) and the Wedge-Tailed Shearwater (`Ua`u kani) leave their nests at night in search of ocean feeding grounds.

The birds, which are traditionally attracted to the light of the moon and stars, can become disoriented by bright lights inland, and collide with structures, or fall to the ground.

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“These grounded seabirds are at risk of being killed by cats, mongooses, or dogs, or may be struck by vehicles,” said Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons in a media statement. “There are some simple guidelines set by our wildlife biologists that the public can follow which can help us protect this important native species,” he said.

Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project manager, Jay Penniman said there has already been 54 rescues of young `ua`u this year.  The fallout, he said, is well above previous counts with no more than 17 downed seabirds reported over the last two years.

Penniman said the record high numbers may be a result of the dark phase of the moon, coupled with lack of trade winds and presence of vog and low clouds when the young seabirds began to leave the colony on Haleakalā.

Since the birds are protected species, approaching or handling them is prohibited; but picking them up to get them out of harm’s way and to appropriate help is permitted.

People who find a grounded bird should make sure it is safe.  The birds should not be given food or water.  Once the bird is found, Penniman said the MNSRP should be called immediately at 280-4114.

The Save Our Seabirds program is made possible through a collaboration between the County of Maui, Maui Electric Company, HC&S, Haleakalā National Park, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources – Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project.

If you encounter a fallen or injured seabird:

  • Calmly pick up the bird using a towel or T-shirt and carry it at waist level, away from your face.
  • Gently place the bird in a cardboard box with ventilation holes and a lid and keep the box in a cool, safe, quiet place.
  • Call the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project’s Save Our Seabirds Maui at 280-4114, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
  • Do not try to feed, treat or release the bird.
  • Do not disturb healthy chicks resting or stretching outside their burrows.

***Supporting information courtesy County of Maui.

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