The official “Save Our Shearwaters” season begins September 15th, so this month I thought it only fitting to dust-off this post and add a few updates for 2019.
Before you get the wrong idea, please know that this post has nothing to do with the state of water in any form. In fact, a Shearwater is a bird. And, these medium-sized long-winged birds call Kauai home.
It is estimated that 90 percent of the world’s population of Newell’s Shearwaters are attracted to Kauai for what amounts to a trifecta: cliffs for roosting, mountainsides for building burrows/nests, and, of course, the ocean for fishing. Commonly, Shearwaters may be seen following whales to feed upon the fish disturbed in their wake. In fact, these birds can dive as deep as 230 feet underwater to get the job done, but I digress…
While Kauai is The Garden Isle, light pollution has created a real challenge for the young birds born here. When leaving their nests for the first time, usually in mid-September through mid-December, they are vulnerable to mistaking artificial light sources for the moon while attempting to make their way to the sea. The confusion causes the birds to circle around until they become exhausted, eventually crashing to the ground, a phenomena called “fall-out.”
Unless saved by human rescuers, the grounded birds are unlikely to survive, getting run over by cars, or eaten by dogs and cats. The good news is that the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) program has been very successful in rehabilitating these chicks. And when strong enough, the young birds are released over the ocean where they are free to follow the moon as Mother Nature intended.
Should you cross paths with one of these distressed birds while staying at The Dolphin Hale, please call the Hanalei Fire Station, or take the bird there for aid. It’s the island way.
One of the best places to see these and a variety of other sea birds: http://www.kilaueapoint.org/seabirds in their natural habitat is to make a trip to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. Further, you need not pay an admission fee for the best view found in the cove. If you are lucky, you may even spot a Hawaiian Monk Seal catching some zzz’s on the rocks below.
For more information on this program and how to properly handle the birds, please visit http://SaveOurShearwaters.org. “AO”!
Mahalo ~ Aunty Tammy