Cat kills Hawaiian petrel

  • photo submitted by Department of Land and Natural Resources

    This photo shows a cat entering the burrow of a Hawaiian petrel prior to killing it.

  • photo submitted by Department of Land and Natural Resources

    This photo shows a cat with a Hawaiian petrel in its mouth, killing the bird.

  • photo submitted by Department of Land and Natural Resources

    This photo shows members of Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, tagging the petrel that was later killed on Kauai by a cat.

  • photo submitted by Department of Land and Natural Resources

    This photo shows the Hawaiian petrel on Kauai before it was killed by a cat.

  • photo submitted by Department of Land and Natural Resources

    This photo shows the Hawaiian petrel chick that was killed by a cat on Kauai, before it lost its fluffy down.

LIHUE — A cat has been terrorizing Hawaiian petrel burrows in the mountains of the Hono NaPali Natural Area Reserve, and its latest kill was a chick involved in a scientific tracking project.

State officials reported the kill Tuesday. It was one of three chicks that were tagged in their burrows on Nov. 12 as part of a study to learn more about where the birds go once they’ve fledged from Kauai.

Likely hours before the fated chick was going to fledge in November, scientists say a field camera caught a cat entering the burrow. It pulled the fully-grown chick out and ate it in front of the camera.

The same cat was seen on camera at five other burrows in the reserve over the course of a few days, and researchers believe it killed at least one other chick. Predator control teams were notified, and they continue to search for the elusive cat as well as other predators.

“It is vital that people take feral cat management seriously to ensure that birds like this Hawaiian Petrel chick survive to take their first flight,” said Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project coordinator Andre Raine. “Having feral cats loose on the landscape is not good for the cats, which risk disease and an untimely death, and it’s also terrible for our native wildlife.”

In 2019 alone, KESRP documented more than 150 Wedge-tailed Shearwater kills along the coast and multiple cat predations of Hawaiian petrels and Newell’s shearwaters — both species are critically endangered — in the mountains.

Researchers realized there was a problem in the burrow when a satellite tag attached to the chick continued to transmit over land for several weeks, while another tagged bird had already logged more than 5,000 miles since leaving the nest.

In late November, researchers returned to the forest burrow to find the chick had been killed. They retrieved footage from the nearby burrow camera that confirmed details of the attack.

“It was heart-breaking to find this healthy chick torn apart by a cat, especially when we saw the tracks of the other two birds that were satellite tagged,” Raine said.

These native Hawaiian seabirds evolved without any mammalian predators and have no defenses against them, according to researchers.

On Kauai, they are now restricted to the most remote, mountainous areas on the island and are in serious decline. Threats to the species include power line collisions and introduced predators, such as cats and dogs.

Raine and his team continue to monitor the two remaining petrels from their research project and report the satellite tags have provided “invaluable” information from the ocean areas where the birds take their first flights.

Meanwhile DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife and KESRP are learning how to use new technologies and methods to monitor predators and ultimately protect endangered birds from them.

14 Comments
  1. Major Lee Hung January 8, 2020 2:39 am Reply

    Why are cats even allowed into the state?


  2. Square January 8, 2020 4:27 am Reply

    This island has a serious cat problem. Cats are naturally inclined to kill other animals especially silly birds. Cats have become a pest and are rapidly reproducing. I love cats, but I also love birds and I don’t see anyone sympathizing for the birds. The county really needs to do something about this cat problem, before the island has no more birds.


  3. Makaala Kaaumoana January 8, 2020 6:44 am Reply

    Mahalo to the brave and nimble researchers who work hard to get this valuable information and MAHALO to DLNR DOFAW for their effort and committment to our vulnerable and treasured native creatures. If you are feeding cats outdoors on Kauai you are the problem! Fed cats hunt and kill. Spayed and neutered cats kill. Do not feed cats outside on Kauai!


  4. Uncleaina January 8, 2020 7:11 am Reply

    Big shout out to the people who feed the feral cats and have the nerve to call them “community cats”. Shout outs to Animal Balance who release feral cats back into the environment where they continue to eat our endangered species. All these feral cat lovers keep saying they don’t harm birds; that they don’t spread toxoplasmosis- but here’s the reality: dead shearwaters caught on video. Hey Humane Society: the TNR program has failed! It needs to stop before all the rare birds are pau.


  5. Gordo January 8, 2020 8:25 am Reply

    It’s called “nature”. We are not god. Is this a call to kill all the cats?!


  6. kaaona kipuka January 8, 2020 8:25 am Reply

    Good!!! I’m with the cat. Would it be at all possible to get it to munch on some of the shear water birds as well…It’s not the cats fault, just good old “survival of the fittest” I say… And stop labeling everything “hawaiian”…I suppose the birds and other animals in Guam are “Guamanian” too right???


    1. douglas henry January 9, 2020 9:17 am Reply

      there are no birds on Guam


  7. RG DeSoto January 8, 2020 8:43 am Reply

    Man…can’t those feral cats tell that the petrels are tagged and protected? What’s this world coming to anyway. (for all you trolls…I’m being facetious)
    RG DeSoto


  8. douglas henry January 8, 2020 9:42 am Reply

    There needs to be a bounty on feral cats. Catch them humanly, turn them alive to Humane Society, and get paid $25 for each feral cat. Do not charge anyone for bring in feral cats.


  9. IKUDIAS January 8, 2020 7:57 pm Reply

    Anyone ever catch these feral cats in a cage? you cant even get close to the cage, much less handle it without getting your fingers shredded. People, please be careful with feral cats. Just a hint, if the cat in the trap goes ballistic, I found it helpful to use a channel lock plieers to place the trap in a small garbage can with water – this seems to quite them down within a minute or two, then its safe to handle the trap, and dispose of the cat responsibly


  10. harry oyama January 8, 2020 8:35 pm Reply

    Just have several “shoot the cat” contests, the one that shoots the most gets a free dinner for two at DNLR expense. Forget about all those love the cat nutcases and have KPD arrest them, then make them clean up all the cat urine and feces they produce that stink up the place


  11. CommonSenseish January 9, 2020 4:26 pm Reply

    I feel like we’ve been here before. Aren’t the people trying to keep the birds alive also the people that are for no kill shelters and release of feral cats? How’s that working out for you?


  12. CommonSenseish January 9, 2020 4:28 pm Reply

    Partially agree. This is an island, these cats can’t go anywhere so ofcourse they will continue to multiply. Kill em off humanely, like real hunters with solid kill shots, not people that are going to just shoot a leg and it runs off. Or Humane Society does have a furnace, inject the poison and burn em.


  13. Uncleaina January 9, 2020 9:07 pm Reply

    One other ridiculous fact: Kauai Humane Society now charges a $90 FEE to anyone who brings in a feral cat. How is that helping our island??


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