Researchers are observing young birds taken from their nests in Kauai’s rugged mountains as part of a decades-long effort to protect one of Hawaii’s threatened native species.
The Newell’s shearwater chicks were taken from their home on the island’s north shore in the Upper Limahuli Preserve on Monday. They were moved out of the area via helicopter and brought to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where they will remain until they leave as adults and fly out to sea.
Researchers say the move will help keep the shearwaters from facing some of the challenges they experience in the wild, Hawaii News Now reported Tuesday.
“The predator-proof fence area within the refuge will provide a safe haven for the shearwaters which, like many other native Hawaiian bird species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species,” refuge leader Heather Tonneson said.
The population of shearwaters has been on the decline in recent years, in part because of predators such as cats and pigs.
“We are hopeful that translocation of this first group of chicks will mark the turning point in the downward trend for this species,” said Hannah Nevins, director of the American Bird Conservancy’s seabird program.
The bird protection project was first recommended in 1983.
At the refuge, the shearwaters have been placed in nest boxes designed to mimic their natural burrows. They will be hand-fed fish and squid.