REPORT FROM MAUI COUNTY – The islands of Hawaii are home to a unique population of migratory seabirds. Among these are the endangered Hawaiian Petrel (`Ua`u) and the Wedge-Tailed Shearwater (`Ua`u kani), During the October through December fledgling season, young birds leave their nests at night in search of ocean feeding grounds.
Commonly believed to be attracted by the light of the moon and stars, which leads them out over the sea where they live, some seabirds become disoriented by bright, unshielded lights, collide with wires or structures and fall to the ground.
“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. “There are some simple guidelines set by our wildlife biologists that the public can follow which can help us protect this important native species.”
“This year is already a huge year for `ua`u fallout,” said Jay Penniman, Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project manager. “The last two years we have had no more than 17 downed seabirds. This year we have already rescued 54 young `ua`u.”
Penniman stated that 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 Haleakala.
Seabirds are easily recognized by their webbed feet and hooked beaks. Young birds may have tufts of down feathers remaining on their heads, bellies or backs.
Hawaiian Petrels are protected under the Endangered Species Act and Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These guidelines prohibit citizens from approaching or handling seabirds, however, 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 and not give it food or water but should call MNSRP immediately, Penniman said. The number to call to report a downed seabird is 280-4114.
Maui’s Save Our Seabirds program is a collaboration of The County of Maui, Maui Electric Company, HC&S, Haleakala National Park, Department of Land and Natural Resources – Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project.
WHAT TO DO/NOT TO DO
If you encounter a fallen or injured seabird:
- Do calmly pick up the bird using a towel or T-shirt and carry it at waist level, away from your face.
- Do gently place the bird in a cardboard box with ventilation holes and a lid and keep the box in a cool, safe, quiet place.
- Do 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.