Volunteers help provide safe haven for wedgetail shearwaters on Molokai

Fern Duvall
Fern Duvall

By Roger Mari - bio | email

MOLOKAI (KHNL) - From four nests a decade ago to more than four hundred today, Molokai's Mo'omomi preserve is home to a thriving colony of wedgetail shearwaters.

These workers and volunteers from Hawaii's Nature Conservancy and Department of Land and Natural Resources are digging deep to help provide a safe haven for a colony of wedgetail shearwaters on Molokai's north shore.

"It's easy to think that in a while they'll have a thousand or even more than a thousand pairs," said biologist Fern Duvall.

Over the past ten years this area covering about 920 acres was cleared of Keawe, which where feral cats are believed to have used hide in and ambush these ground burrowing seabirds.

"I think the greatest number killed by what turned to be a single cat was 143 in a single night," said Duvall.

Biologist Fern Duvall says many of the shearwaters found to have already been banded at Mo'omomi, are too young to mate. He has another explanation for the increase of shearwaters at the preserve.

" I think we'll find out that these birds are coming from other areas, it's the only way to explain the rapid growth," said Duvall.

The work is not easy. Shearwaters burrow deep in the sand and when taken out of their nests, they can pack a pretty hard bite.

"It actually does hurt, and if you pull away it hurts even more, because the side of the beak is actually like a razor," said volunteer Kristen Coeloho.

Shearwaters are not endangered, but they travel great distances bringing back vital marine nutrients to this special piece of shoreline in Hawaii.

More than 40 wedgetail shearwater birds were banded.

On Thursday the group will head to Kamaole park on Maui where they are expecting to band about 150.