Helping Seabirds Thrive
Kaua’i is home to many species of seabirds that nest and raise their young in our mountain forests and coastal beaches. The absence of mongoose, unique in the state, has allowed many species of seabirds to survive on Kauai. On other islands, where there are large populations of mongoose, seabirds are scarce or absent, except in remote reserves or offshore islets.
When they leave their nests, seabird fledglings are guided by the light of the moon out to sea. Unfortunately, urbanization on Kauai has resulted in the ongoing fallout of fledgling seabirds on their first nocturnal flight from their nesting burrow to the sea.
By eliminating stray light, we can reduce the number of young birds that get confused and fall inland, rather than continue out to the open ocean.
You can reduce light attraction and help seabirds by
- Turning off unnecessary outdoor lights, especially between September 15th and December 15th.
- Replacing fixtures that scatter light in all directions — such as globe and carriage lights — with directional fixtures that point down and away from the beach.
- Shielding the light source. Materials such as aluminum flashing can be used to direct light where it is needed and keep it off the beach and from exposing the bulb to the sky.
- Replacing white incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity lighting with a maximum 40-watt yellow bug light.
- If you have large windows, draw drapes at night to keep interior lights from attracting the birds.
- If you live near a county ballpark, check your neighborhood for grounded seabirds. If the park is not in use, but the lights are still on, turn off the lights.
- Keep your dogs and cats supervised and controlled at all times.
How to rescue a seabird
- Keep an old clean towel and a ventilated cardboard box, pet carrier or other non-airtight container in your car. If you are on foot, just a towel will do.
- If you find a downed bird, gently pick it up from behind with the towel, carefully wrapping the material completely around its back and wings. Place it in a container as soon as possible. Be aware of the shearwater’s long, pointed bill and don’t hold it near your face. Don’t worry too much because the birds are usually docile, but wrapping the bird in a towel will protect you and the bird safe.
- Keep the bird covered and in a quiet, shaded or cool location.
- Do not feed, water or handle birds.
- Do not attempt to release the bird yourself. It may have internal injuries or be too tired or weak to survive. Throwing the bird into the air could cause more injury. Let the trained Save Our Shearwaters program staff examine the bird and decide when, where and how to let it go.
- Take the downed bird to the Kauai Humane Society if possible.
- Otherwise take the bird to the nearest shearwater aid station right away (see the list at the bottom of this page to locate the aid station nearest to you). Remember, the aid stations are only available from September 15 to December 15. The rest of the year the fire stations are provided with pet carriers so that found seabirds can be dropped off year-round. On the white board provided at the aid station, write information about where you found the bird. The best information would be a street address or street intersection, the number of a nearby utility pole or highway mile marker. Please also note at what time you found the bird. If you are in a hurry, you can leave your telephone number so staff can call you to get additional information about the bird you found.
Kaua’i’s seabirds still need your help
Kauaians, you should be proud of yourselves. Since Save Our Shearwaters was created by the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife in 1979, volunteers and residents have collected more 32,000 seabirds— 92 percent of which recovered and were released back to the wild. The majority of the seabirds collected through the program are members of state and federally listed endangered species.
In the past, up to 2,000 Newell’s Shearwaters — mostly juveniles — have been picked up during the annual fledgling season through the SOS program.
Save Our Shearwaters season
The SOS season begins in mid-September, when the first seabird fledglings begin to emerge from their nests. The aid stations are not available until after September 15.
The Newell’s Shearwater is the most commonly found grounded seabird during this period. The species can be easily distinguished by its ‘formal wear’ of black and white plumage, dark bill and pink legs with black toes.
For seabird emergencies call (808) 635-5117.
Public SOS aid station locations
Bringing a downed bird directly to our shelter during regular business hours is always the best first choice. We are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Monday. The shelter is closed on Sundays.
Kilauea Medical Group
Hanalei Fire Station (near Princeville shopping center)
Hanalei Liquor Store
Lihu’e Fire Station
Kapa’a Fire Station
Kaiakea Fire Station
Kauai Humane Society
Waimea Fire Station
Hanapepe Fire Station
Kalaheo Fire Station
Koloa Fire Station
For information on volunteering for this program, please contact the SOS Coordinator, Tracy Anderson at (808) 632-0610, extension 109.