Press Releases

From Flooded To Flying Free – Rescued ‘Ua’u Chick Released After 67 Days Of Care

Date: December 7th 2021

After 67 days of care by the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) program, an endangered Ua’u (Hawaiian Petrel) that had been rescued from a flooded burrow flew safely out to sea late last week. 

The ‘Ua’u chick when it was first found.  © Bobby Brittingham

The ‘Ua’u chick was found in a flooded burrow in Hono o Nā Pali Natural Area Reserve in late September by a monitoring team from Archipelago Research and Conservation (ARC) who were checking endangered seabird burrows in the Natural Area Reserve (NAR).  At the time, the chick was found covered in mud, soaked and sitting in an inch of water. Knowing that it would not survive if left alone, the decision was made to rescue the baby bird. It was carefully transported from its burrow to the team’s base camp, and from there a helicopter was flown in to deliver it to staff from SOS.

“The chick was in a critical condition upon intake”, said Molly Bache, Program Coordinator for SOS. “and the first few weeks were filled with a lot of uncertainty.  However, after over two months of care, the bird was finally ready to be released.  We were thrilled to see it fly strongly out to sea.”

The ‘Ua’u chick safe at Save Our Shearwaters. © Jacqueline Nelson

Around a third of the world’s population of Ua’u breed on Kaua‘i. Due to a wide range of threats including powerline collisions, light attraction and predation by introduced species (such as cats, rats and pigs) the birds are mainly concentrated in remote areas in the north-west of the island. These include multiple management sites in Hono o Nā Pali NAR, which is a stronghold for the species, protected and managed under the Department of Land and Natural Resources – Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DLNR DOFAW) Native Ecosystems Protection & Management Program (NEPM).

Bobby Brittingham, who was part of the ARC team that rescued the bird from the mountains, said “I’ve been checking in on the chick ever since we handed it over to SOS. It’s been awesome to see it grow big and strong under their care. We can all help these birds by looking out for them during the fallout season too. As we can see from even this extreme example, rescued birds that are handed in to SOS are given a second chance that they would not otherwise have.”

The Ua’u chick flying strongly off to sea. © Jacqueline Nelson

In the meantime, ARC teams are carrying out the final colony checks of the season, as the last of the ‘Ua’u will be fledging over the next few weeks.  Once the season is over, they will have a look at the interior of the burrow that this chick came from and make it safe for the ‘Ua’u pair when they come back to Kaua’i next April.

A video of the original rescue can be found on the Archipelago Research & Conservation YouTube Channel: Hawaiian Petrel chick rescued from flooded burrow. – YouTube

The Ua’u chick getting ready to fly at the release site. © Jacqueline Nelson

Rare footage shows an ‘A‘o (Newell’s Shearwater) attempting to regain flight after being downed by lights

Date: November 23rd 2021

An endangered ‘A‘o (Newell’s Shearwater) was filmed this month trying to take off after being attracted to lights in Waimea and crash landing. The bird was subsequently rescued after staff from Archipelago Research and Conservation (ARC) spotted the bird through a thermal camera while it was climbing a fence in a bid to get airborne.

At this time of year on Kaua’i, fledgling seabirds are attracted to bright lights which disorientate them. Once attracted, they will circle lower and lower until they are grounded. Unfortunately, after the young birds crash land, it’s almost always impossible for them to get airborne again as they need a steep slope to take off from. If they are not rescued, they will typically die of starvation, be eaten by predators such as cats or be run over by cars.

Marc Travers of ARC said, “It was just good luck that I saw this bird through the thermal camera. It had managed to haul itself up a fence in a bid to regain flight, but even with the added lift it still ended up crashing back to the ground. We rescued the bird and took it to the Save Our Shearwaters program where it was successfully released. This was in the middle of Waimea town and it’s a good reminder to all of us that we need to dim our outdoor lights and turn off unnecessary lights during the fall out season, which continues until December 15th”.

The public can help to protect these culturally important native birds by looking out for downed shearwaters and taking any that they find to a fire station or to SOS. Unnecessary outdoor lighting should be turned off, and necessary lighting should be dimmed and shielded.


Seabird Rescue! Hawaiian Petrel Chick Saved From Flooded Burrow

Date: October 6th 2021

An endangered Ua’u, or Hawaiian Petrel was rescued from a flooded burrow in Hono o Nā Pali Natural Area Reserve late last week by a monitoring team from Archipelago Research and Conservation (ARC). 

The team were checking endangered seabird burrows in the Natural Area Reserve (NAR) to assess how the breeding season is progressing and ensure the birds are safe from introduced predators like cats.  In a remote part of the site, they came across a saturated chick sitting in a muddy puddle inside its burrow. “The chick looked really miserable,” said Bobby Brittingham of ARC, who found the bird. “It was covered in mud and soaked, and the whole interior of the burrow was flooded under an inch of water.”

Knowing that the chick would not survive in such conditions and that the burrow was compromised, the decision was made to rescue the baby bird. It was carefully transported from its burrow to the team’s base camp, where it was kept warm and dry overnight.  “The logistics of the operation were quite tricky”, said Dr André Raine, Science Director of ARC. “The site is very remote and often shrouded in mist and rain. Our team had to carry the chick across narrow muddy trails and descend slippery slopes using webbing to get back to their camp.  Even though it was logistically challenging this rescue was important – considering the rarity of the Ua’u, every bird counts!”

The Hawaiian Petrel chick when it was first found.  Photo by Bobby Brittingham

Airborne Aviation were contacted, and they agreed to land at the site on their way back from one of their operations in the north-west of the island. Luckily for the little chick, there was a small weather window that allowed the helicopter to come in and collect the bird from the team. It was then flown to Līhuʻe where it was handed over to staff from the Save Our Shearwaters Program.

“While there is no comparison for being raised in the wild by its parents, we are thankful for our ability to step in when it’s the only chance a bird has left.  It may seem like quite a lot of effort for a single bird, but when you consider that it is an endangered species and that it could raise 25+ chicks of its own over its lifetime, the value of each individual bird becomes apparent.”, said Molly Bache, Program Coordinator for SOS. “At this time, we are focused on stabilization.  It’s too soon to tell what direction this case will take, but we will do whatever we can to help this chick make it out to sea.”

Around a third of the world’s population of Ua’u breed on Kaua‘i. Due to a wide range of threats including powerline collisions, light attraction and predation by introduced species (such as cats, rats and pigs) the birds are mainly concentrated in remote areas in the north-west of the island. These include multiple management sites in Hono o Nā Pali NAR, which is a stronghold for the species and protected and managed under the DLNR DOFAW Native Ecosystems Protection & Management Program (NEPM).

The Hawaiian Petrel chick safe at Save Our Shearwaters. Photo by Maddy Jacobs.

All of the groups involved in the effort are hopeful that the chick will make it through to fledging.  There is a long road ahead, as these birds leave their nests for the first time in late October through early December. In the meantime, work continues in the colonies as this year’s Ua’u and A’o (Newell’s Shearwater) chicks prepare to head out to sea for the very first time.  Everyone is urged to look out for grounded seabirds over the next few months; if you find one, visit saveourshearwaters.org to locate your nearest Aid Station to take grounded seabirds to.  It’s also important use seabird friendly lighting and keep outdoor lighting to a minimum.  Dark skies are good for both humans and our native wildlife!

For a video of the rescue, check out our YouTube Channel! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb-zUdf-MOg9ZlzQywlURwQ