A record number of wedge-tailed shearwater seabirds are hatching at Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve a year after a predator-proof fence was installed in the area.
The fence is meant to keep out all the birds’ predators, including cats, dogs, mongoose, rats and mice.
“The success of the fence is astonishing,” said Marigold Zoll, Oahu natural area reserves manager with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, in a statement Friday. “We are beginning to see how abundant our native ecosystems can be when restored to their natural state without predators.”
The hatching wedge-tailed shearwater seabird population at Kaena is now at 3,274, more than double the previous high, recorded in 2007. The moli, or Laysan albatross, has also increased in numbers at Kaena Point, with the population up by 15 percent to 400 birds.
Seabirds were nearly wiped out at Kaena Point for decades by predators and off-road vehicles driving on the sand dunes where the birds nest. Vehicles were blocked in the early 1990s and, since then, seabirds have slowly returned and attempted to nest.
But predators kept the seabird population from making a stronger comeback. The fence appears to have tackled that problem, the department said.
Kaena Point is one of only a handful of places in the main Hawaiian Islands where these birds nest. To prevent trampling seabirds, visitors must stay on the pathways and cannot bring dogs into the reserve.