Residents asked to watch for disoriented young seabirds

Man-made lights are being blamed for the downing of young birds making their first flights

Wedge-tailed shearwater, or ua‘u kana. State Department of Land and Natural Resources photo

The Maui News

Residents are being asked by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to be on alert for young seabirds making their first flights to sea that are disoriented by man-made lights.

Each year people pitch in to help these birds that are leaving their burrows for the first time by turning their lights down and rescuing them when found on the ground.

The birds rely on the light of the moon to guide them to sea, but they may be attracted to and disoriented by man-made light sources, the DLNR said. Individual birds may circle the lights until they eventually fall to the ground from exhaustion or colliding with buildings or vegetation.

The occurrence often is referred to as “fallout” and happens primarily between September and December. When grounded, these birds are at risk of predation by cats, mongooses and other predators; vehicle collisions; and starvation. Fallout birds often are seen landing or sitting on roadways, lawns and in parking lots.

To help the birds, homeowners and businesses can reduce their light impacts by:

• Facing all outdoor light down to the ground and using downward lighting for signs.

• Turning off decorative and unnecessary lights as much as possible.

• Replacing bare spotlights, floodlights and unshielded lights with seabird-friendly lighting styles, including shielding the lights to prevent them from facing upward and using nonwhite or lower wattage lamps.

• Placing floodlights and security lights on motion detectors so that they are not on all the time.

• Shielding outdoor lights with commercially available or homemade glare-reducing shields.

• Closing curtains at night to help reduce overall glow and glare.

• Keeping dogs and cats indoors so that they are not able to attack and kill grounded birds.

The public also is asked to watch out especially for endangered and threatened species such as Newell’s shearwaters, or a’o; Hawaiian petrels, or ua’u; and the wedge-tailed shearwater, or ua’u kani.

Wedge-tailed shearwater chicks that are found outside burrows on coastal trails and beaches should be left in place unless there is imminent danger from dogs, cats or other activity. These chicks, prior to their first flight, will normally sit outside their burrows exercising and imprinting on their natal area before leaving the nest. It is important to know that these birds are not lost, abandoned or injured.

Anyone finding a fallen or injured seabird should determine if it needs to be rescued. Often, young birds stay near their nest burrows and do not need intervention. These birds should be left alone. If a bird is found unresponsive or in an unsecured environment, such as the side of the road or next to a building, it needs to be rescued.

If a bird needs to be rescued:

• Find and prepare an appropriately sized, well-ventilated carrier with air holes and place a clean, soft cloth at the bottom of the carrier, such as a T-shirt.

• With caution, approach the bird from behind and use a lightweight towel to gently pick it up and transport it to the carrier.

• Place the container in a quiet and dark place, away from people, animals and loud noises.

• Do not give food or water to the bird and do not leave any in the container.

• Note the time and location of where the bird was found.

• Transport the bird to a designated drop-off location if available, licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility or any veterinary clinic as soon as possible. Birds can be held overnight if transportation or a drop-off location is not immediately available. Keep the carrier inside or in an enclosed garage, away from people and animals.

The phone numbers for those agencies are:

• State Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Maui, 984-8100, for all native species.

• Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project on Maui, 280-4114, for seabirds.

• State Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Molokai, (808) 553-1745 and (808) 870-7598, for all native species.

• Arleone Dibben-Young on Molokai, email, for waterfowl and shorebirds.

• State Division of Forestry and Wildlife on Lanai, (808) 565-7916 and (808) 357-5090, for all native species.

• Hawai’i Wildlife Center on Lanai, (808) 884-5000 or (808) 563-0013, licensed rehabbing facility.

For more information, go to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife website at