Hawaiian Petrels & Newell’s Shearwaters Take Flight from Kaua‘i
(KILAUEA POINT, KAUA‘I) – “An enormous success,” is how people and organizations involved in an effort to further protect endangered Hawaiian seabirds describe the first three seasons of translocating Hawaiian Petrels and the first Newell’s Shearwaters to a predator-proof enclosure at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kaua‘i’s North shore. In the first three years of this effort, a total of 75 seabirds (49 petrels and 26 shearwaters) have fledged from the 76 moved; in the last two years, the project has achieved a 100% success rate.
Today, the last of 20 Hawaiian Petrels brought into the 7.8 acre Nihoku colony this fall fledged – flying safely out to sea. Robby Kohley, of Pacific Rim Conservation, the non-profit organization responsible for care and feeding of the birds at Nihoku, said, “The success of the first three years of translocation is the result of many individuals and organizations working together to make a better future for these native birds. Each time one of these young birds fledges from Nihoku it brings us one step closer to our goal of recovery for these unique seabirds. It is comforting and exciting to know that when they return as adults they will have a safe place to raise young of their own.”
The birds were collected from colonies in Hono o Na Pali Natural Area Reserve and Upper Limahuli Preserve – located in Kaua‘i’s rugged, mountainous interior, some of the last main strongholds for these species on Kaua‘i and a single Newell’s shearwater was translocated from within an area outside of the predator proof fence at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Both species have declined dramatically in recent decades due to collisions with powerlines, attraction to artificial lights, introduced predators and invasive plants. Once carefully extracted from their burrows, the birds were flown by helicopter to the Princeville airport where they were then driven to the Nihoku enclosure. There the birds were placed into artificial burrows and, over the course of several weeks were fed and cared for by a dedicated team until they finally fledged. Dr. André Raine, who leads the Kaua‘i Endangered Forest Bird Recovery Project explained, “These two species are in serious trouble on Kaua‘i and their precipitous decline in recent decades has been truly staggering. A translocation project like this – in tandem with on-going intensive management at remaining montane colonies and tackling the serious issues of powerline collisions and light attraction – is critical to ensuring that these amazing seabirds are still around for future generations on Kaua‘i.”
American Bird Conservancy (ABC), a partner in the planned five-year translocation effort to establish breeding colonies of Hawaiian Petrels and Newell’s Shearwaters at Nihoku. Hannah Nevins, ABC Seabird Program Director, remarked, “We are encouraged by the great success of fledging chicks at the site during the last three years. We are hopeful many of these will return to recolonize the site in future years.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to be a part of this amazing partnership effort toward reversing the decline of both Hawaiian Petrels and Newell’s Shearwaters,” concluded Heather Tonneson, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s, Kīlauea Point NWR. “We are very thankful for the extensive work and dedication from the partners that has gone into this project over the years, from the initial steps to get the predator proof fence established at the Kīlauea Point NWR, to the immense amount of work that goes into the pre-planning stages and restoration prior to translocation every year, and then finally, the long and arduous days involved with the actual translocation and subsequent care of the birds at the Nihoku site.
The effort is a collaboration among Pacific Rim Conservation, the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP), American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), the Pacific Co-operative Studies Unit of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Tropical Botanical Garden and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. KESRP is a DOFAW/Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit project. For a full list of partners and roles, please visit www.nihoku.org.