Efforts underway to keep Hawaii's native seabird from extinction

Andrea Erichsen
Andrea Erichsen
Nick Holmes
Nick Holmes
Shari Iseri
Shari Iseri

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

KAPAHI (KHNL) - They're a native seabird to Hawaii, but they've been disappearing at an alarming rate, which has forced the Newell's Shearwaters to become an endangered specie.

But efforts are underway to keep these birds from becoming extinct in our continued Earth and Sea Project series.

Hawaii's largest population of Newell's Shearwaters live on Kauai. That's mostly because there are no mongoose on the Garden Isle. But there's something else impacting these precious seabirds.

"As they're making that journey and leaving their terestrial nests in the ground, they fly out over our urbanized areas and become distorted and disoriented by outdoor lighting," Kauai seabird conservationist, Andrea Erichsen said.

Andrea Erichsen works exclusively on seabird issues for the state.

"Our office tries to work with businesses and agencies to prevent and minimize the impacts of light attraction and how it harms these young birds as they're trying to migrate to the sea," she said.

The migration lasts only a few months from mid-September to mid December. During those months, hundreds of Newell's Shearwaters crash into lights and fall to the ground. Some may even die.

"The general public can contribute a great deal," Seabird recovery coordinator, Nick Holmes said. "If you find a shearwater pick it up and take it to a save our shearwater aid station. It really helps the birds. It plays a significant role in helping these birds."

Changing your outdoor lighting is another big help.

"We're mainly focused on the hotels and resorts that do create a lot of electrical usage, by re-directing a lot of the lighting that you have on your property, you can help reduce the glare for the shearwaters flying over," Lighting specialist, Shari Iseri said.

Iseri offers many types of lights, but she's recently made an effort to distribute lights that are shearwater-friendly.

"We try to use an approach that is proactive rather than reactive, it's something we try to make sure when changing our lighting techniques," she said.

Erichsen says doing your part doesn't take much effort.

"I'd like folks to realize that there are very simple and cost-saving things they can do to minimize the risk that their lights pose to our endangered and threatened seabirds, such as turning off unneeded lights, using motion sensors, getting low-cost shields," she said.

An important native seabird that people can save with just a few small changes to their lighting.

"They are our native species that is endemic to Kauai and the other Hawaiian Islands and they are a declining extremely fast and are in danger of going extinct forever," she said.

For more information on how you can help out with the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan, click on the Kauai Seabird HCP link on this page.