Press Releases

New seabird restoration project highlights connections between culture and conservation

Aerial shot of Nuʻalolo Kai. © Andre Raine

Date: May 13th 2023

A seabird restoration project was initiated this week at Nuʻalolo Kai on the rugged and remote Nā Pali coast of Kauaʻi. The project is a partnership of multiple organizations and aims to restore seabird populations that have been lost from the site due to introduced predators.

Nuʻalolo Kai is one of the most important cultural sites on Kauaʻi and was occupied for over 800 years from the 12th to the 20th centuries as a vibrant Hawaiian fishing village. The site has been the focus of a dedicated cultural restoration project by the Nā Pali Coast ʻOhana and Hawaiʻi State Parks Archaeology Program. Damaged archaeological features have been restored, and native and Polynesian plants re-established. “The seabird project is an important next step to restoring the site to what it used to be,” said Kumu Sabra Kauka of the Nā Pali Coast ʻOhana, “as seabirds were a vital component of the lives of people in Nuʻalolo Kai.”

Previous archaeological studies have found that seabird bones were abundant at Nuʻalolo Kai, including many seabird species no longer breeding at the site. This indicates that seabirds played an important role for the people living there, as they have throughout the Hawaiian Islands since the first arrival of Polynesians. However, introduced predators such as cats, Barn Owls and rats made their way to this remote area, resulting in the disappearance of several seabird species.

ʻUaʻu kani chick first recorded in 2022. © Andre Raine

The Nuʻalolo Kai Seabird Restoration Project seeks to restore seabird populations through the control of introduced predators and the deployment of artificial nest boxes and sound systems to attract birds to safe areas within the site.  Funding for the project comes from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.  Priority species for the project are the endangered ‘a’o (Newell’s Shearwater), and ‘ake’ake (Band-rumped Storm-petrel), as well as the ‘ou (Bulwer’s Petrel). “Nuʻalolo Kai represents a unique opportunity to create a project that underlines the strong links between conservation and Hawaiian culture,” said Dr. André Raine, Science Director for Archipelago Research & Conservation. “With native seabirds being under threat throughout Kauaʻi by introduced predators, special sites such as these are critical for their conservation.”

The towering sheer cliff walls surrounding Nuʻalolo Kai prevent predators from easily accessing the site, and a dedicated predator control program removes those predators that enter.  Since predator control was initiated at Nuʻalolo Kai by Hallux Ecosystem Restoration, the ‘ua’u kani (Wedge-tailed Shearwater) has already naturally recolonized the site, with numbers of breeding pairs growing annually. “The seabirds are a part of the history and culture of the site and it’s great to be a part of the restoration process,” said Kimberly Shoback, project manager at Hallux Ecosystem Restoration. “It’s rewarding to see that birds are already returning since cats have been removed from the valley.

Nest boxes were painted by children from Island School. © Andre Raine

As well as conservation, the project will also focus on an educational component. Children from Island School helped paint the nest boxes, and project partners will work on informational signage and material both on site and for tour operators. “One of the greatest conservation threats that seabirds face is invisibility,” said Sea McKeon of American Bird Conservancy. “Most people just don’t have a chance to see and interact with these birds, despite relationships that are centuries long and deeply embedded in ocean cultures around the world. Nuʻalolo Kai is somewhere that relationship, that kinship, can be shown to visitors, while we all learn about the benefits of seabird restoration to Hawaii’s ecosystems.”

All of the project partners will now eagerly be watching developments at the site this year to see how the birds respond to restoration activities.  “It is a rare and rewarding privilege to contribute to a conservation project of this nature”, said Alan Carpenter, Assistant Administrator for the Hawaii State Parks Division.  “We are so heavily invested in managing people and creating quality recreational and cultural experiences, but there are still contributions to natural resource restoration to be made in some of the more remote and isolated corners of our parks.  Restoring native bird populations in Nuʻalolo Kai is fully compatible with cultural revitalization, and we look forward to monitoring and sharing the progress.”

Left Photo: Hand painted decoys were placed at the two sites. © Andre Raine
Right Photo: Example of a nest box at Nuʻalolo Kai. © Andre Raine

Video footage available on YouTube: Nu‘alolo Kai – YouTube

For more information contact Dr André Raine,, 1 (808) 265 3723

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 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!