Hawaiian Petrel Chick Rescued from Flooded Burrow on Kaua‘i
An endangered ʻUaʻu (Hawaiian petrel), was rescued from a flooded burrow in Hono o Nā Pali Natural Area Reserve on the island of Kaua’i. The rescue was carried out late last week by a monitoring team from Archipelago Research and Conservation.
The team was checking endangered seabird burrows in the Natural Area Reserve to assess how the breeding season is progressing and ensure the birds are safe from introduced predators like cats.
In a remote part of the site, they came across a saturated chick sitting in a muddy puddle inside its burrow.
“The chick looked really miserable,” said Bobby Brittingham of ARC, who found the bird. “It was covered in mud and soaked, and the whole interior of the burrow was flooded under an inch of water.”
Knowing that the chick would not survive in such conditions and that the burrow was compromised, the decision was made to rescue the baby bird. It was carefully transported from its burrow to the team’s base camp, where it was kept warm and dry overnight.
“The logistics of the operation were quite tricky”, said Dr André Raine, Science Director of ARC. “The site is very remote and often shrouded in mist and rain. Our team had to carry the chick across narrow muddy trails and descend slippery slopes using webbing to get back to their camp. Even though it was logistically challenging this rescue was important considering the rarity of the ʻUaʻu, every bird counts.”
Airborne Aviation was contacted, and agreed to land at the site on the way back from an operation in another part of the island.
“Luckily for the little chick, there was a small weather window that allowed the helicopter to come in and collect the bird from the team. It was then flown to Līhuʻe where it was handed over to staff from the Save Our Shearwaters Program,” according to the Archipelago Research and Conservation team.
“While there is no comparison for being raised in the wild by its parents, we are thankful for our ability to step in when it’s the only chance a bird has left. It may seem like quite a lot of effort for a single bird, but when you consider that it is an endangered species and that it could raise 25+ chicks of its own over its lifetime, the value of each individual bird becomes apparent,” said Molly Bache, Program Coordinator for SOS. “At this time, we are focused on stabilization. It’s too soon to tell what direction this case will take, but we will do whatever we can to help this chick make it out to sea.”
Around a third of the world’s population of ʻUaʻu breed on Kaua‘i. Due to a wide range of threats including power line collisions, light attraction and predation by introduced species (such as cats, rats and pigs) the birds are mainly concentrated in remote areas in the north-west of the island. These include multiple management sites in Hono o Nā Pali NAR, which is a stronghold for the species and protected and managed under the DLNR DOFAW Native Ecosystems Protection & Management Program.
All of the groups involved in the effort are hopeful that the chick will make it through to fledging. There is a long road ahead, as these birds leave their nests for the first time in late October through early December. In the meantime, work continues in the colonies as this year’s ʻUaʻu and ʻAʻo (Newell’s Shearwater) chicks prepare to head out to sea for the very first time. Everyone is urged to look out for grounded seabirds over the next few months. It’s also important use seabird friendly lighting and keep outdoor lighting to a minimum.
If you are uncertain the bird needs help or you have questions regarding seabird fallout, please call the DLNR DOFAW office for your island (listed below), or visit their website. If dropping off a downed seabird (always call ahead) see the list below for nearest location, or call the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center if you’re unable to reach the nearest facility. Any after-hours calls will be returned the following morning.
- DOFAW 808-553-1745
- DOFAW 808-565-7916
Photo 1 – The Hawaiian Petrel chick when it was first found. Credit – Bobby Brittingham
Photo 2 – The Hawaiian Petrel chick safe at Save Our Shearwaters. Credit – Maddy Jacobs