Seabird fledging season is every September-December.
Here’s what that means, what to watch for and how to help if you find a downed bird.
Hawai‘i is home to over 20 species of seabirds that nest and raise their young from the mountains to the beaches throughout the Hawaiian archipelago. Among these 20 species, two – our ʻUa‘u (Hawaiian Petrel) and the ʻAʻo (Newellʻs Shearwater) –are currently threatened with extinction.
Seabirds breed and raise their chicks on our islands and fly regularly during the breeding season to and from their nest sites. The chicks they raise grow and leave their nests (fledge) from mid September to mid December each year. ʻUa‘u, ʻAʻo and other shearwater, petrel and storm-petrel fledglings are guided by the light of the moon out to sea. Unfortunately, the light from urbanization on our main islands confuses seabirds and has resulted in fallout annually during this time of year for adult seabirds and for fledgling seabirds on their first nocturnal flight from their nesting burrow to the sea.
Don’t know if you have found a seabird? For help identifying a bird, call the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center at (808) 884-5000 or consult this useful guide from the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project: What’s a Seabird?
There are ways you can help. By eliminating stray light, you can play a part in reducing the number of young birds that get confused and fall inland rather than continue out to sea. A list of how you can reduce light pollution is provided below. You can also help by keeping an eye out for fallen seabirds, picking them up and bringing them to a permitted bird rehabilitation center or by contacting the following organizations and agencies for more information:
Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center – (808) 884-5000, http://www.hawaiiwildlifecenter.org
Save our Shearwaters, Kauaʻi Humane Society – (808) 635-5117,
Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project (Maui) – (808) 573-2473, http://mauinuiseabirds.org
Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW)
Hawaiʻi – (808) 887-6063 or (808) 974-4226
Maui nui – MAUI (808) 984-8100, LANA‘I (808) 565-7961, MOLOKA‘I (808) 553-1745
Oʻahu – (808) 973-9778
Kauaʻi – (808) 274-3433
How to Rescue a Seabird
To prepare for seabird recovery, please follow these recommendations:
Keep a clean towel, pillow case or large t-shirt and a ventilated cardboard box, pet carrier or other non-airtight container in your car. If you are on foot, just the towel will do.
If you find a downed bird, gently pick it up from behind with the towel, carefully wrapping the material completely around its back and wings. Place it in a container as soon as possible. Be aware of the shearwater’s long, pointed bill. Don’t be worried too much because the birds are usually docile, but gently wrapping the bird in a towel will protect you and the bird.
Keep the bird covered and in a quiet, shaded or cool location. Do not feed, water or handle it.
Take the downed bird to a permitted wildlife rehabilitation center, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center on Hawaiʻi Island, the Kauaʻi Humane Society on Kauaʻi, or contact your island’s DOFAW office for all other islands.
Do not attempt to release the bird yourself. It may have internal injuries or be too tired or weak to survive. Throwing the bird into the air could cause more injury. Let the trained wildlife response staff examine the bird and decide when, where and how to let it go.
Be sure and write down the information about where you found the bird. The best information would be a street address or street intersection, the number of a nearby utility pole or highway mile marker. Also include your telephone number so staff can call you to get additional information about the bird you found if necessary.
You can help reduce light attraction by:
- Turning off unnecessary outdoor lights, especially between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15.
- Replacing fixtures that scatter light in all directions — such as globe and carriage lights — with directional fixtures that point down and away from the beach.
- Shielding the light source. Materials such as aluminum flashing can be used to direct light where it is needed and keep it off the beach.
- Replacing white incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity lighting with a maximum 40-watt yellow bug light.
- If you have large windows, draw drapes at night to keep interior lights from attracting the birds.
- If you live near a county ballpark, check your neighborhood for grounded seabirds. If the park is not in use, but the lights are still on, turn off the lights.