Cultural Significance

Seabirds were an integral part of daily life and were of cultural significance to ancient Hawaiians. Seabirds that feed at sea and return to shore at night were used to navigate back to land from fishing or trading voyages.  Fishermen used gatherings of feeding seabirds to lead them to schools of fish, and still do today. Hawaiians also observed seabird behavior to indicate changing weather patterns. On land, ʻUaʻu (Hawaiian Petrel) chicks were harvested from their burrows as food for the Aliʻi, or Royal classes. Seabird feathers were used for intricate featherwork in capes and lei making. Seabirds also appeared in ancient Hawaiian legends, proverbs, and expressions. For example, a Hawaiian proverb for a family that only had one child was, “Hoʻokahi nō hua a ka ʻaʻo”, or, ‘For the ʻaʻo (Newell’s Shearwater) lays but a single egg.’ 

A rescued Newell’s Shearwater is released by Kupuna Leilani at Lydgate Park as part of a release ceremony organised by KESRP (photo by Andre F Raine)
Kupuna Sabra Kauka prepares to release a fledgling as part of the annual E Ho‘opomaika‘i ‘ia na Manu ‘A‘o (A Cultural Release of the Native Newell’s Shearwater) organized by KESRP (photo by Trinity Tippin)