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Save Our Shearwaters

For years, KIUC has worked collaboratively with U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) and the Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources – Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to address complex issues concerning the potential impact of utility structures and lights on Kauai’s protected and endangered seabirds. Over the years, we have implemented numerous measures to 1) reduce the potential impacts of our facilities on seabirds (such as shielding thousands of streetlights, shielding facility lighting, undergrounding and altering powerlines, etc.) and 2) to improve seabird survival and recovery (such as funding, expanding and improving the Save Our Shearwaters program, and funding habitat improvement projects). 

To date, we have spent more than $26 million on this effort, working with consultants, community groups, wildlife agencies, and government regulators on bird issues. This includes strong partnerships and funding for the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP), the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve Seabird Mitigation Project (HNP NARS) and the Kauai Humane Society (KHS). That work includes: 

Funding the implementation and ongoing operations of the Save Our Shearwaters Program

Funding seabird-colony management and predator control in upper Limahuli Valley and Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve

Undergrounding power lines on Mount Kahili 

Updating population estimates at-sea for the three seabird species

Funding auditory surveys to locate and quantify seabird breeding colonies

Funding development and implementation of an under-line monitoring program aimed at better understanding the amount of seabird take caused by overhead utility structures

Funding tracking studies of fledglings and adults released out of the Save our Shearwaters program

Conducting cultural, biological, vegetation, and fencing studies to evaluate and prepare for the construction of predator proof fences at select colonies.

KIUC is currently seeking a long-term Habitat Conservation Plan with USFWS and DOFAW, along with a 30-year incidental take permit and license.

Kauai: Where Seabirds Thrive

Kauai is home to many species of seabirds that nest and raise their young in our mountain forests and coastal beaches. On other islands with large populations of mongoose, seabirds are absent except in remote reserves or offshore islets. The absence of mongoose—unique in the state—has allowed many species of seabirds to survive on Kauai.

When they leave their nests, seabird fledglings are guided out to sea by the light of the moon. Unfortunately, urbanization has caused ongoing fallout of fledgling seabirds on their first nocturnal flight from their nesting burrow. By eliminating stray light, we can reduce the number of young birds that get confused and fall inland rather than continue out to sea.

You can help reduce light attraction by:

  • Turning off unnecessary outdoor lights, especially between September 15 and December 15.
  • Replacing fixtures that scatter light in all directions—such as globe and carriage lights—with directional fixtures that point down and away from the beach.
  • Shielding the light source with materials such as aluminum flashing, which can direct light where it is needed and keep it off the beach.
  • Replacing white incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity lighting with a maximum 40-watt yellow bug light.
  • Drawing drapes at night to keep interior lights from attracting the birds.
  • Checking your neighborhood for grounded seabirds—especially if you live near a county ballpark.
  • Turning off the lights when the park is not in use.

Outdoor Lighting Guidelines

Model Lighting Codes

How to Rescue a Seabird

To prepare for seabird recovery, please follow these recommendations:

  • Keep an old towel and a ventilated cardboard box, pet carrier or other non-airtight container in your car. If you are on foot, just the towel will do.
  • If you find a downed bird, gently pick it up from behind with the towel, carefully wrapping the material completely around its back and wings. Place it in a container as soon as possible. Be aware of the shearwater's long, pointed bill. Don't be worried too much because the birds are usually docile, but wrapping the bird in a towel will protect you and the bird.
  • Keep the bird covered and in a quiet, shaded or cool location. Do not feed, water or handle it.
  • Take the downed bird to the Kauai Humane Society, if possible. Otherwise, take the bird to the nearest shearwater aid station right away (see the list below). Aid stations are available September 15 to December 15.
  • Do not attempt to release the bird yourself. It may have internal injuries or be too tired or weak to survive. Throwing the bird into the air could cause more injury. Let the trained Save Our Shearwaters program staff examine the bird and decide when, where and how to let it go.
  • On the white board provided at the aid station, write information about where you found the bird. The best information is a street address or street intersection, the number of a nearby utility pole or highway mile marker. If you are in a hurry, you can leave your telephone number so staff can call you to get additional information about the bird you found.

Kauai's Seabirds Still Need Your Help

You should be proud of yourselves. Since SOS was created by the state in 1979, volunteers and residents have collected 31,224 seabirds—92 percent of which were recovered and released. In the past, up to 2,000 Newell's shearwaters—mostly juveniles—were picked up annually through the SOS program. Of these, 91 percent were released into the wild.

SOS Season

The SOS season begins in mid-September, when the first seabird fledglings begin to emerge from their nests. The Newell's shearwater is the most commonly found grounded seabird. The species can be easily distinguished by its formal wear of black and white plumage, dark bill and pink legs with black toes. For seabird emergencies, call 808.635.5117.

Public SOS Aid Station Locations

Bring the bird directly to the Kauai Humane Society during regular business hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Monday.

Kilauea Medical Group
Hanalei Fire Station
Hanalei Liquor Store

Lihue Fire Station
Kapaa Fire Station
Kaiakea Fire Station
Kauai Humane Society

Waimea Fire Station
Hanapepe Fire Station
Kalaheo Fire Station

Koloa Fire Station


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