Healthy shearwater chicks moved to Kauai wildlife refuge

Photo courtesy USFWS - Pacific Region
Photo courtesy USFWS - Pacific Region

Researchers have successfully moved seven Newell’s shearwater chicks in hopes of saving the species.

Team members had to be dropped by helicopter onto a Kauai mountainside to remove the healthy chicks from their burrow. They were then taken to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is protected by a predator-proof fence. There, they will be raised to fledgling from the same site where 10 Hawaiian Petrels were successfully translocated last year in the hopes of starting new colonies of both species.

Photo courtesy USFWS - Pacific Region
Photo courtesy USFWS – Pacific Region

An eighth chick was found several weeks earlier in the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve, where it had left its burrow and become lost. It has been in care at the Save our Shearwaters facility and will join the other seven in a few days.

Researchers like Lindsay Young of Pacific Rim Conservation hope these chicks will start a new colony there.

Photo courtesy USFWS - Pacific Region
Photo courtesy USFWS – Pacific Region

“It depends on the stars and that tells them where they’re going to come back to as adults,” she said. “They always return to the place where they were born, so if we remove chicks before they’ve had the chance to see the night sky where they live, they will return to the place where they first see the night sky, and our goal is have them see that sky at Kilauea Point.”

In the meantime, they will be hand-fed a slurry of fish and squid, and their growth will be carefully monitored until they leave their new nest burrows and fly out to sea. They will remain at sea for the next 3 to 5 years. The new colony will be the only fully protected colony of this species anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands and represents a huge achievement toward recovering this species.

Kauai is home to about 90 percent of the world’s population of Newell’s shearwater, but the species is facing threats from introduced predators.

Photo courtesy USFWS - Pacific Region
Photo courtesy USFWS – Pacific Region

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