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Nighttime football wraps up as seabirds take flight

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LIHUE » Seabird fledging season is beginning on Kauai, which means the island will host its last night football game of the season this weekend.

Kapaa and Waimea high schools will face off at Vi­dinha Stadium on Saturday, The Garden Island newspaper reported.

Since 2010, Kauai’s football teams have had to play their games during the day starting in the middle of September. That’s because this is when the island’s endangered seabirds start to fledge, meaning that they take their first flights, and migrate.

The young birds are prone to mistaking bright stadium lights for the moon and stars, which they rely on to guide their way out to sea.

Newell’s shearwater birds have been known to repeatedly circle stadium lights until they become exhausted and fall to the ground. Many birds have died after being attacked by cats or hit by cars.

The fledging season officially began Monday, but federal and state wildlife officials made an exception to allow a night game this weekend anyway.

County Parks Director Lenny Rapozo said biologists found the fledglings are still young and not ready to fly.

The county appreciates the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to allow one last night game this year, Rapozo said. "It’s a tradition that we’re trying to preserve as best we can for the players, families and football fans on Kauai," he said.

People will be standing by to help any injured birds, just in case.

Seven federal and state wildlife biologists will monitor the game, said Thomas Kaia­kapu, the state’s Kauai wildlife manager. Staff from the seabird rescue group Save Our Shearwaters will also be on hand to help.

Kauai County was fined $15,000 in 2010 for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in connection with the death of Newell’s shearwater birds. It also was required to make a $30,000 donation to the Save Our Shearwaters program and pay $180,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to benefit the Newell’s shearwater.

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