Seabird Fallout Season

Seabird Fallout Season

Seabird fallout season happens every year, roughly September 15 – December 15You can help!

If you are currently responding to a seabird in potential need of rescue, click here to jump to the section below detailing what to do if you find a downed seabird.

What is Seabird Fallout?

Fallout is a phenomenon primarily affecting young seabirds (petrels and shearwaters) that leave their nest for the first time, but can also affect adults from time to time. These seabirds use natural lighting such as moonlight to navigate out to sea where they spend their time feeding. They can become disoriented by our artificial lighting (street lights, building lights, etc.) and either circle lights or collide with structures, and may fall to the ground due to exhaustion or injury from collision. Once on the ground, they become extremely vulnerable to predators or may be hit by vehicles. During September through December, the majority of young birds attempt their first flight out to sea and and are most at risk.

Which species are affected by this phenomenon?

Many seabird species on our islands can be affected by lighting, but those you are most likely that you to encounter include:

An image of an ʻuaʻu kani

‘Ua‘u kani, wedgetailed shearwater (Photo: A. Siddiqi)

Ua‘u, Hawaiian petrel (Photo: A. Raine)

‘A‘o, Newell’s shearwater (Photo: B. Zaun)

You can help by reducing light attraction at your home:

  • Turn off unnecessary outdoor lights, especially between September 15 and December 15.
  • Replace fixtures that scatter light in all directions with directional fixtures that point down and away from the beach. See examples of seabird friendly lighting here.
  • Shield light sources. Materials such as aluminum flashing can be used to direct light where it is needed.
  • Use low-intensity lighting. For example, by replacing white incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity lighting with a maximum 40-watt yellow bug light.
  • If you have large windows, draw drapes at night to keep interior lights from attracting the birds

What to do if you find a downed seabird?

First, determine if it needs to be rescued: often young birds stay near their nest burrows and do not need intervention. These birds will not need to be rescued and should be left alone. If you are uncertain of whether the bird needs help, please call the appropriate numbers for you island, listed HERE.  The Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Hawaii Wildlife Center, or Kauai Save Our Shearwaters can assist you with any questions. If a bird is found unresponsive or in an unsecure environment (i.e. side of the road, next to a building, etc.), it needs to be rescued.

Young wedge-tailed shearwater in front of burrow (Photo: L. Young)

Adult wedge-tailed shearwater in front of burrow (Photo: L. Young)

If you have determined the bird needs to be rescued, you can follow the steps below to transport the bird to a designated drop off location, licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility, or any veterinary clinic. 

  1. Find and prepare an appropriate sized, well ventilated carrier (with air holes), by placing a clean, soft cloth (for example, a T-shirt) at bottom of carrier.
  2. With caution, approach bird from behind and use a lightweight towel to gently pick it up and transport it to the carrier.
  3. Place the container in a quiet and dark place, away from people, animals, and loud noises.
  4. Do not give food or water to the bird and do not leave any in the container.
  5. Transport the bird to a designated drop off location, licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility or any veterinary clinic as soon as possible. See island-specific contact information and licensed rehabbers here. Birds can be held overnight if transportation to a drop off location is not immediately available. Keep the carrier inside or in an enclosed garage away from people and animals until it can be transported.
  6. Complete our Fallout Response Information Form so the Division of Forestry and Wildlife is notified of the transported bird. You will need to provide contact information in case followup is required, along with information including date/time you found the bird, location of drop-off, and box number (if a bird is placed in a box at a designated drop-off site).


What happens to the birds once they are dropped off?

Birds will be evaluated and released in suitable habitat if they are assessed to be healthy. Birds needing further treatment will be medically stabilized and rehabilitated until ready for release if assessed to be healthy. This work is provided by a small group of professional wildlife rehabilitators and biologists with assistance from trained volunteers. The public’s support of our downed seabird programs is crucial to their success. Your willingness to transport birds to established drop-off sites is much appreciated!

Who do I call on my island?

Contact information for each island is provided HERE in case you do find a downed seabird or other native bird in need of help. During the fall out season, please use the specific numbers for your island. If you are unable to reach someone immediately, the Hawaii Wildlife Center has offered to dispatch calls and is open 7 days a week from 9am–5pm. Calls after hours will receive responses the following morning. Hawai’i Wildlife Center number is:  (808) 884-5000. In addition, any veterinary facility can accept wildlife in need of assistance.