MAHA‘ULEPU — Kauai resident Kit Furderer was walking along the Heritage Trail sea cliff coastline on Monday when he came across 35 dead wedge-tailed shearwaters, killed just above Shipwrecks.
He took some photos to document the scene, and then immediately reported them to the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, which took action. Evidence from the area points to an attack on the nesting colony from a cat or a dog.
Wedge-tailed shearwaters are common in Hawaii, but are vulnerable to predation by cats, dogs, rats and other predators.
That’s brought the number of wedge-tailed shearwaters killed by off-leash dogs or feral cats to around 150 birds on Kauai during the 2019 nesting season, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
DLNR points out shoreline burrowing seabirds are easy prey for dogs and cats.
It’s not the first time this particular nesting colony has been attacked by predators. In 2013, some 80 shearwaters were killed over two months.
“Although shearwater kills unfortunately happen every year on Kauai, this year has been particularly bad,” DLNR said in a press release about the recent attack. “There have been four reported mass killings, including another incident at a separate colony on the South Shore where at least 55 wedge-tailed shearwaters were killed.”
After Furderer reported the kill, KESRP responded on behalf of DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife and found shearwaters “strewn along cliffs over a large area,” according to DLNR.
Abby Kreuser, of KESRP, responded to the incident and said the scene was “horrific.”
“There were dead birds everywhere, and most of them were chicks that were only a few weeks away from fledging. It looks like a large proportion of the young birds from the colony have been wiped out, as well as many breeding adults,” Kreuser said.
Andre Raine, of KESRP, said it’s important to keep pets on leashes, especially in coastal areas, and cats indoors in order to help preserve the nesting colonies — especially this time of year, during nesting and fledging season.
“These kinds of incidents happen annually, and our shearwaters cannot withstand such a high level of predation,” Raine said.
Several days after Furderer found the dead shearwaters, two starving shearwater chicks were found in the burrows where he found the dead birds.
“Now they’re nursing them back to health,” Furderer said. “I am happy at least we had two survivors and that all our fast work helped saved them.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.