homepage logo

Volunteers to help collect data on wedge-tailed shearwaters

By Staff | Apr 2, 2015

Wedge-tailed shearwaters inspired the Hawaiian name ‘ua‘u kani, which means “calling or moaning petrel.” Their call is sometimes likened to a crying child. PHOTO BY KEN WOOD, NATIONAL TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN. 

Adult banding and recaptures for ‘ua’u kani (wedge-tailed shearwaters) will be happening during April. This year, the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project will be focusing their efforts on banding adult ‘ua’u kani and collection data from recaptured birds.

This work is very important to their long-term research on ‘ua’u kani distribution and dispersal. To volunteer, sign up at info@mauinuiseabirds.org or call 572-3500; let them know which locations you would like to volunteer at by April 3.

The Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project will send out another e-mail with more information a week before the events, which are scheduled for April 15 at 5 p.m. at Kamaole III Park in Kihei, April 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Hookipa Beach Park, and April 17 at 5 p.m. at Hawea Point in Kapalua.

Banding is the process of applying a metal band bearing a unique identification number to the leg of a bird. Metal bands are small, unobtrusive and made to last for the duration of a seabird’s life. Banding allows reserchers to study seabirds over a long period of time and follow the movements of individual birds.

Scientists can study population wide patterns of dispersal by banding chicks and recapturing them years later as adults.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has been banding wedge-tailed shearwaters locally since 1996 and has partnered with the Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project for bi-annual banding since 2006.

The project began in March of 2006, when staff documented the presence of a significant breeding colony of endangered Hawaiian petrels in the upper reaches of the Lanai watershed. This colony is the second largest known breeding colony of Hawaiian petrels in Hawaii. Project staff began work to protect the seabirds by removing predators and habitat-altering plants that were taking over the breeding colony.

On Maui and Molokai, MNSRP continues to search for seabird colonies, provide protections where funding and staffing permit, and to provide public education about the importance of seabirds in our natural environment. The project collaborates with researchers, managers and regulators to focus efforts as well as possible to benefit seabirds.

Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project is a program of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in association with the Hawaii DLNR, Division of Forestry and Wildlife and Tri-Isle Resource Conservation & Development.

MNSRP works to help DLNR fulfill its constitutionally mandated responsibility for the protection and management of seabirds and their habitats in Maui Nui.

The wedge-tailed shearwater, the largest of the tropical shearwaters, is the most commonly seen Hawaiian seabird offshore of the main Hawaiian Islands. Individuals have long, thin wings, a wedge-shaped tail and a hooked bill. Nests are in burrows or in rock cervices located on steep slopes.

Wedge-tailed shearwaters are important to Hawaii’s fishing industry. Schools of tuna often force smaller fish and squid to the surface of the ocean. The shearwaters gather to feed in these areas. Fishermen know that where a lot of shearwaters are feeding, there might be a school of tuna nearby for them to catch, thus giving them the name “tuna birds.”