Preventing fallout of seabirds

LIHUE — It’s fall in Hawaii, and time again to watch out for the “fallout” of young seabirds.

This time of year, Kauai’s threatened and endangered native Hawaiian seabirds become disoriented by artificial lights during their maiden flights from the mountains to the sea.

These seabirds have an important part to play on our island. They were traditionally used by navigators to find their way back to the island, are friends to local fishermen by helping to locate schools of ahi, and are critical to Kauai’s watersheds by helping to fertilize the soils with marine nutrients in their droppings. Each year, the people of Kauai pitch in to help these birds by turning their lights down and rescuing the birds when they are found.

After becoming disorientated by artificial lights along the coast, the birds are often seen landing or sitting on Kauai’s roadways, parking lots and lawns. Some also collide with poles, wires and buildings before crashing to the ground. Once on the ground, these young birds are highly vulnerable to being hit by cars or killed by cats or dogs.

Through Dec. 15, homeowners and businesses on Kauai are encouraged to:

– Turn all lights down to the ground and use downward lighting for signs.

– Turn off decorative and unnecessary lights as much as possible.

– Replace bare spotlights, floodlights and unshielded lights with seabird-friendly lighting styles (including shielding the lights to prevent them from facing upwards and using non-white or lower wattage lamps).

– Place floodlights and security lights on motion detectors so that they are not on all the time.

– Shield outdoor lights with commercially available or home-made glare reducing shields.

– Close curtains at night to help reduce overall glow and glare.

– Keep dogs and cats indoors so that they are not able to attack and kill grounded birds outside.

On Kauai, the public is asked to be on the watch for young seabirds, especially the threatened and endangered species such as Newell’s shearwaters (‘A‘o) and Hawaiian petrels (‘Ua‘u), as well as the more common wedge-tailed shearwater (‘Ua‘u kani).

Wedge-tailed shearwater chicks that are found outside burrows on coastal trails and beaches should be left in place unless there is imminent danger of harm due to dogs, cats or some other activity. These chicks, prior to their first flight, will normally sit outside their burrows exercising and imprinting on their natal area prior to leaving the nest. It is important that the public realize that these birds are not lost, abandoned or injured. If you have questions about a wedge-tailed shearwater, please call the Kauai Division of Forestry and Wildlife Office.

Anyone finding a fallen or injured seabird is asked to do the following:

– Carefully and calmly pick the bird up with a towel or T-shirt, being mindful of traffic and other hazards to your safety, and to keep the bird at waist level, away from your face.

– Gently place it in a cardboard box that has ventilation holes and a lid, and keep box in a cool, safe, quiet place.

– Do not attempt to feed, treat or release the bird as qualified wildlife rehabilitators will assess the bird’s health and schedule its release at the best time.

– Take the bird to the nearest fire station or to the Save Our Shearwaters Program at the Kauai Humane Society (632-0610 or 635-5117) or call DLNR’s Kauai DOFAW Office at 274-3433.

Contact the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program (KSHCP) office at (808) 245-9160 and visit www.kauai-seabirdhcp.info for more information on the KSHCP, on decreasing light pollution and conservation of Kauai’s endangered seabirds.

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