10/14/14 – Public Asked To Turn Off Unneeded Lights, Look Out For Seabirds

Posted on Oct 15, 2014 in Forestry & Wildlife, News Releases

News Release


For Immediate News Release October 14, 2014


LIHUE – It’s fall in Hawaii, and time again to watch out for the “fallout”of young seabirds. This time of year, Kauai’s threatened and endangered native Hawaiian seabirds become disoriented by artificial lights during their maiden flights from the mountains to the sea.  

These seabirds have an important part to play on our island. They were traditionally used by navigators to find their way back to the island, are friends to our fishermen by helping them locate schools of ahi and are critical to our watersheds by helping to fertilize the soils with marine nutrients in their droppings. Each year, the people of Kauai pitch in to help these birds by turning their lights down and rescuing the birds when they are found.

After becoming disorientated by artificial lights along the coast, the birds are often seen landing or sitting on Kauai’s roadways, parking lots and lawns. Some also collide with poles, wires and buildings before crashing to the ground. Once on the ground, these young birds are highly vulnerable to being hit by cars or killed by cats or dogs.  

Through December 15, homeowners and businesses on Kauai are encouraged to:

  • Turn all lights down to the ground and use downward lighting for signs;
  • Turn off decorative and unnecessary lights as much as possible;
  • Replace bare spotlights, floodlights and unshielded lights with seabird-friendly lighting styles (including shielding the lights to prevent them from facing upwards and using non-white or lower wattage lamps);
  • Place floodlights and security lights on motion detectors so that they are not on all the time;
  • Shield outdoor lights with commercially available or home-made glare reducing shields; 
  • Close curtains at night to help reduce overall glow and glare; and
  • Keep dogs and cats indoors so that they are not able to attack and kill grounded birds outside

For illustrations and guidance related to seabird-friendly light styles that also protect the dark starry skies of HawaiI, visit the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program website: https://www.kauai-seabirdhcp.info/minimization/lights/documents/SeabirdFriendlylightingflyer.pdf

On Kauai, the public is asked to be on the watch for young seabirds, especially the threatened and endangered species such as Newell’s shearwaters (‘A‘o) and Hawaiian petrels (‘Ua‘u), as well as the more common wedge-tailed shearwater (‘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 of harm due to dogs, cats or some other activity. These chicks, prior to their first flight, will normally sit outside their burrows exercising and imprinting on their natal area prior to leaving the nest. It is important that the public realize that these birds are not lost, abandoned or injured. If you have questions about a wedge-tailed shearwater, please call the Kauai Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) Office.

Anyone finding a fallen or injured seabird is asked to do the following:

  • Carefully and calmly pick the bird up with a towel or t-shirt, being mindful of traffic and other hazards to your safety, and to keep the bird at waist level, away from your face;
  • Gently place it in a cardboard box that has ventilation holes and a lid, and keep box in a cool, safe, quiet place;
  • Do not attempt to feed, treat or release the bird as qualified wildlife rehabilitators will assess the bird’s health and schedule its release at the best time; and
  • Take the bird to the nearest fire station or to the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) Program at the Kauai Humane Society (808-632-0610 or 808-635-5117) or call DLNR’s Kauai DOFAW Office at 808-274-3433. 

Contact the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program (KSHCP) office at (808) 245-9160 and visit www.kauai-seabirdhcp.info for more information on the KSHCP, on decreasing light pollution and conservation of Kauai’s endangered seabirds.

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Media Contact:

Deborah Ward
Public Information Specialist

Summary background information

Kaua‘i is home to numerous seabirds. The threatened ‘a‘o (Newell’s shearwater) and endangered ‘ua‘u (Hawaiian petrel) belong to the Procellariidae family (also known as Tubenoses). These remarkable birds are inextricably connected to both the land and the sea: they return to land each year to breed, yet rely on the sea for their food (primarily small fish and squid). Each summer, they breed in the mountainous interior of Kaua‘i, flying to the colonies after sunset. Kaua‘i is home to an estimated 80% of the world’s remaining population of Newell’s shearwater –a truly native species that despite past harms, still graces our islands and is depending on us to help it survive.  

Value of ‘A‘o and ‘Ua‘u to Hawaiian cultural and Hawai‘i’s Ecosystem:

Navigators: Birds have been a tool for traditional Hawaiian navigators for centuries. In the non-breeding season, they are present in the equatorial counter currents. Those traveling from the South Pacific (Tahiti or Marquesas) to Hawai‘i in April can use the ‘a‘o as a guide as it travels on the same path.

Fishermen: The ‘a‘o are also friends to fishermen in search of ‘ahi. They dive after squid that schools of ‘ahi have corralled close to the surface of the ocean.

Ecosystem health: Before the colonization of the islands with humans bird guano was a major source of nitrogen in the landscape, which is believed to have contributed to the health of our forest ecosystem today.

Kahili (royal feather standards)

Kahili were made primarily with seabirds’feathers, potentially of the ‘a‘o and ‘ua‘u. 

Threats to ‘A‘o and ‘Ua‘u: Non-native predators: At the colonies birds are eaten by feral cats, rats, and non-native barn owls. 

Habitat degradation: Pigs and goats trample burrows. Invasive plants such as strawberry guava and albizia change suitable habitat to a monoculture where birds cannot access the ground to breed.

Threats at sea: Little is known about the threats at sea. While more information is needed about potential marine threats, terrestrial threats of predation at the colony and fallout must be addressed to ensure the species survive.

Artificial light: Young birds are distracted by and attracted to bright lights near the coastline during their maiden flight to sea.

Collision with artificial structures: Tall objects with low visibility present a strike risk for seabirds as they travel to and from their mountain colonies and the ocean.

Efforts to eliminate, reduce, and minimize lighting problems continue in Hawai‘i.

2009 — Act 161 mandates control of light pollution to protect culture, wildlife, and habitats throughout our state. Also establishes an advisory committee to address light pollution issues. 

July 2005 — Act 224 was enacted to mitigate the adverse impacts of light pollution in coastal areas; and prohibits the positioning and use of artificial lights that direct illumination of the shoreline and ocean waters.

About the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Program (KSHCP) Office: this is a DLNR project with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designed to assist landowners with seabird and lighting issues by developing strategies to avoid and minimize seabird light attraction, and monitoring impacts to seabirds on the island. and the KSHCP also helps to guide funding of mitigation measures to offsets impacts and provide long term protection and enhancement of seabird nesting habitats on Kaua‘i.  The KSHCP when finalized shall provide a much needed legal mechanism for participants to obtain state and federal permits for incidental take of listed seabirds due to light attraction.  

The KSHCP office works with all public, private, state, and non-federal entities to evaluate the causes of light attraction on Kaua‘i, identify cooperative and collaborative opportunities, and evaluate methods to improve the use of lights.