Feral cats continue to kill endangered seabirds on Kauai

Courtesy DLNR Natural Area Reserve System

Researchers last week discovered the bodies of six endangered Hawaiian Petrels at a remote breeding colony in Hono o Na Pali Natural Area Reserve, Kauai.

All had been dragged from their breeding burrows by feral cats and partially eaten, including one incident that was caught on a monitoring camera.

“Unfortunately, these incidents continue to happen with regularity on Kauai,” said Dr André Raine, Project Co-ordinator for the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project. “Feral cats are found all over our islands, even in the most remote and inaccessible regions. They are a significant threat to not only native seabirds, but a wide range of other endangered bird species.”

The Hawaiian Petrel is an endangered seabird found only in the Hawaiian Islands. Its populations have declined dramatically in recent years on Kauai, where it faces a number of threats including being eaten by introduced predators such as cats. Several colonies of these birds are now being protected by seabird management projects, which includes the control of introduced predators.

The seabirds come to Kauai to breed from April to December and nest in burrows which they dig in the ground under native ferns and at the base of large trees such as ohia.  At this time of year, they are incubating a single egg, and are extremely vulnerable to cats and other predators who can get into burrows to kill them.

“In the last two years, we have found the bodies of at least 48 endangered seabirds that were killed by feral cats and this represents just the tip of the iceberg,” said Raine. “If we continue to have large numbers of feral cats roaming the landscape, the situation will only deteriorate for these beautiful and iconic birds. We can all help by encouraging responsible pet ownership, which includes keeping cats indoors and away from our native wildlife.”

Photo courtesy John Hintze, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project
Photo courtesy John Hintze, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project

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