The Green Leaf

New home for chicks

November 4th, 2015

 

Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

A total of 10 endangered Hawaiian Petrel chicks now have a new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, thanks to humans who care.

The chicks were flown by helicopter from their montane nesting area to a new colony protected by a predator-proof fence at the refuge as part of a historic translocation project more than 30 years in the making, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

More than a dozen people were involved in the translocation as part of a collaboration between the American Bird Conservancy, DLNR, the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Pacific Rim Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Early in the morning, two teams embarked on to the mountain peaks in the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve. They were dropped by helicopter so they could locate 10 nest burrows that DLNR had been monitoring throughout the breeding season — each with a large, healthy chick.

The chicks were carefully removed by hand, according to DLNR, and placed into pet carriers, then hiked to the tops of the peaks where helicopters picked them up. The chicks' holding boxes were even seat-belted to ensure their safety. They were flown to Princeville Airport where an animal care team assessed their health, then driven to the 7.8-acre Nikoku area at the Refuge, their new home.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

Michael Mitchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's acting Kauai National Wildlife Refuge complex project leader said the translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kauai.

"Petrels, like many other native Hawaiian species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species," he said. "Translocating the birds to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge ensures that this colony of birds will be protected for our children and our children's children."

Endangered Hawaiian Petrels, or ‘Ua‘u, are one of two seabird species endemic to the Hawaiian islands and found nowhere else on Earth. Their population decline is caused by introduced predators, including cats, rats and pigs, as well as collisions with man-made structures during their nocturnal flights from breeding colonies in the mountains to the ocean, where they search for food.

Petrel chicks imprint on their birth colony the first time they emerge from their burrows and see the night sky, and typically return to breed at the same colony as adults. So these chicks are expected to emerge from their next boxes and return to Nihoku as adults. They will be hand-fed a slurry of fish and squid and monitored until they are ready to leave their new nest burrows and fly out to sea.

Next, the state is hoping to translocate a colony of Newell's Shearwaters to predator-proof locations.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Related video courtesy Hawaii DLNR and American Bird Conservancy:

Hawaiian blessing of the chicks' new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge

 

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