Maui News

Biologists ask for the public’s help as endangered seabirds leave nests

October 6, 2010, 10:00 AM HST
* Updated October 15, 9:48 AM
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Biologists on Maui are asking for the public’s help in protecting endangered seabirds as they leave their nests for the ocean in search of feeding grounds over the next two months.  The fledging period for the endangered ‘ua’u Hawaiian Petrel and the non-endangered ‘ua’u Kani Wedge-tailed shearwater begins tomorrow on the night of the new moon.

This 'ua'u fledgling was found near Kahului Harbor with broken leg. The bird was taken to a veterinarian, treated, then sent to a rehabilitation center on the Big Island where it received therapy and was later safely released. Courtesy Photo, Haleakala National Park.

An 'ua'u being released after biologists received a call to pick up this grounded bird. The 'ua'u was examined and safely released. Photo Courtesy Haleakala Natinoal Park.

The birds sometimes become disoriented by the lights from land, fly in circles around the lights, become tired and fall to the ground.  These grounded birds are often found in areas of blight lights such as hotels, golf courses, stadiums and yards lit by flood lights.  Most of the grounded birds are found during dark, cloudy nights or nights of the new moon. Lights from land look more like stars during these dark nights then during nights when the moonlight brightens the night sky.

Biologists are anticipating a high volume of groundings this year and ask the public to call the Haleakala National Park Dispatch number to report findings.  Trained specialists will be sent to inspect the bird and release it safely.

Anyone finding a grounded seabird is asked to do the following:

1. Protect it from hazards such as cars, dogs and cats. Place it in a covered, well ventilated cardboard box and keep it in a cool or shaded place. Do not give it food or water. Be careful when handling the bird. It may bite.


2. Do NOT retrieve birds that are on the ocean. The ocean is the natural habitat for these seabirds. Removing them from their ocean environment can cause more harm to the birds.


3. Call the toll-free number, 1-877-428-6911 (Haleakala National Park Dispatch). Please provide your name, phone number, when and where the bird was found and any other pertinent information.

4. Please do not release the seabird by yourself. Trained wildlife specialists will inspect the bird for injuries and release it safely.

‘Ua‘u are black-and-white seabirds with black, webbed feet. They measure approximately 16 inches from beak to tail and have a wingspan of about three feet. These endangered native birds, found only in Hawai’i, nest on the slopes of Haleakalā. About ninety percent of the known ‘ua‘u population nests within Haleakalā National Park.


‘Ua‘u kani (wedge-tailed shearwaters) are gray and white seabirds that look similar to the ‘ua‘u. They measure about 17 inches from beak to tail and have a wingspan of 38 inches. ‘Ua‘u kani nest at lower elevations on banks and cliffs near the shore with numerous colonies along coastal areas of Maui and on offshore islands.

Maui Electric Company (MECO) partnered with Haleakala National Park, the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the County of Maui to develop a brochure with instructions on what to do if you find a grounded bird. That brochure was sent to MECO customers in the last billing cycle.

The current ‘ua‘u population on Maui has recovered over the past 20 years and is estimated at 3,000 to 5,000 individuals. The size of the ‘ua‘u kani population is unknown, but is much larger than the ‘ua‘u population. Both of these native birds are threatened with extinction by habitat loss and predators such as feral cats, dogs, mongooses and rats. The ‘ua’u is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. All seabirds are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Biologists extend their thanks to the public for their assistance in protecting these native birds.

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