Four Newell’s shearwater birds were released at the Kamalani Playground at Lydgate Park Tuesday in the annual Releasing of the ‘A’o.
The educational event connects kids with conservationists and teaches about the history and current threats facing the endangered seabirds.
“Newell’s shearwaters are really rare birds and they helped the islands grow up with trees and plants,” said Kalaheo Elementary fourth-grader Simon Oyama after watching four of the seabirds dive from handlers’ hands and fly out to sea.
He pointed out some of the things he’s learned about threats to the birds, like artificial lighting that causes them to circle, get tired and eventually fall to the ground in what’s known as fallout.
“I think we should protect the birds because they’re important to nature and culture,” Oyama said.
Kalaheo Elementary teacher SheriAnn Moises said the kids were excited to see the ‘a’o release.
“It’s a new experience for many of them,” she said.
Every year, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project partners with Save Our Shearwaters to host the ‘A’o release.
“This is conservation in action,” said Maxx Phillips, with the Center for Biological Diversity. “I’m so happy to see the kids getting involved. “
Monday was the first of two separate shearwater releases and six birds were released — making a total of 10 fledgling ‘a’o released over the last two days.
The young seabirds had been rescued by people then rehabilitated by Save Our Shearwaters. Before the release, each of the birds went through a health check to make sure they were healthy enough to fledge.
“The children are always so excited to get close to these special Native Hawaiian birds,” said Project Manager Dr. André Raine. “They ask lots of questions and it gives us a chance to explain why it’s important to give these downed seabirds a second chance at life. They are a key part of the ecosystem on Kauai but unfortunately they have suffered significant declines in recent decades.”
Newly fledged seabird chicks are attracted to the bright lights of cities and towns. They circle them until they end up exhausted and grounded, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. If they are not rescued by concerned members of the public, they become easy prey for the large numbers of cats and dogs on the island or are sometimes run over by cars.
Rescued birds are placed in aid stations at fire stations around Kauai. Each day, SOS staff or volunteers take them the SOS rehab facility.
“Tell your family about how special these birds are and the cool experiences you had with them today,” KESRP’s Derek Harvey said. “Then they’ll want to help and when they see birds fall out, they’ll help as well. So, I think it’s really important that we spread our love for these birds to everyone we know, because they are really, really special.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org