DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
PETER T. YOUNG, CHAIRPERSON
Phone: (808) 587-0401
Fax: (808) 587-0390
For Immediate Release:
Colony Of Shearwater Chicks Attacked
HONOLULU— A native shearwater breeding colony at Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve was attacked Sunday night, November 5, when feral dogs killed 21 flightless chicks in nesting burrows in the reserve, said the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
DLNR wildlife officials received a report Monday morning from contract personnel working at the point. They saw several dogs running loose in the area and discovered the dead young birds throughout the reserve.
“Since 1994, DLNR has been tracking seabird populations at Ka‘ena Point, and actively managing this area with vegetation restoration efforts, a low intensity predator control program, and the restriction of vehicle access to the reserve,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.
“This year, we saw the second largest breeding attempt by the wedgetailed shearwaters, with 725 fledgling shearwaters counted by volunteers on October 28. These young birds were expected to make their first journey to sea this week,” said Peter Young, DLNR chairperson.
“Tragically, 21 of these young birds were killed in a single night by dogs. This is the reason dogs are strictly prohibited in the reserve, and this is clearly marked on information signs at entry points. However, some people are still being seen bringing their dogs there, and homeless persons in nearby communities may be allowing their dogs to run loose -- a practice that once again has had tragic and devastating results,” Young said.
A crew of DLNR biologists and ornithologists went out to the reserve today to count the birds killed, and to retrieve the carcasses, to prevent attracting other predators.
This is not the first time this has happened. In 1996 a feral dog killed 40 nesting shearwaters in one night and in 2005 a feral dog killed approximately 20 shearwaters. A total count of the colony on October 28 identified 64 birds that had been killed by predators. DLNR’s count today found another 113 dead chicks, which include the 21 freshly killed by dogs. About 40 percent of the population of chicks is lost to cats and mongooses each year. If feral dogs attack, they can wreak major havoc in a shearwater colony.
"Pets that are abandoned or left to run loose in a Hawaiian ecosystem become predators with catastrophic results," said Young. "We provide signs that warn people not to take or introduce pets into protected areas. If we find animals that are pets, we try and capture and remove them, and inform any owners about violation of our rules and the damage that stray or abandoned pets can cause."
“We will be investigating further, and attempting to remove any wild dogs preying on the colony, identify how the dogs entered the colony and identify their owners if released or abandoned pets. We are asking anyone with information on this incident to call 643-DLNR.”
Ka‘ena Point is a Natural Area Reserve managed by DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. The area currently supports breeding colonies for two seabirds, the wedge-tailed shearwater and Laysan albatross. The presence of these species is the result of the successful predator control operations in progress over the past 5-years.
Ka‘ena Point is one of three known wedge-tailed shearwater breeding colonies on O‘ahu. Other breeding colonies occur on the offshore islets of O‘ahu other main islands where predators such as cats and dogs are not present.
The ‘ua‘u kani or wedge-tailed shearwater is a large, abundant seabird that produces a variety of wails and moans that surely inspired the Hawaiian name of this bird, which means “calling or moaning petrel.”
Individuals have long thin wings, a wedge-shaped tail, and a hooked bill. Like most seabirds ‘ua‘u kani breed in their natal colonies, form long-term pair bonds, have high site fidelity, lay only one egg per season, and both parents participate in all aspects of raising young.
‘Ua‘u kani excavate burrows or nest in rock crevices. In Hawai‘i, most birds breed during the same season, and most eggs are laid in June with most young fledging in November. Birds first breed at four years of age, and the oldest known individual was 29 years old.
They breed on low, flat islands and sand spits with little or no vegetation, but also excavate burrows on the slopes of extinct volcanoes and in old volcanic craters.
Burrows require firm soil or plant roots to stabilize loose soil; generally nesting habitat is devoid of tall woody plants. In locations where nest sites are scarce or the ground is too hard to excavate burrows individuals will nest in rock crevices or above ground. During the non-breeding season, shearwaters range widely through the Pacific Ocean.
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