Yuki Reiss, Project coordinator for the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Program, emphasizes: “We need to all remember to minimize unnecessary lighting during the seabird nesting season. Lights pointing towards the sky or out to sea will attract seabirds and put them in harm’s way.” Since 1979, Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) has rehabilitated and released nearly 30,000 seabirds, mainly ‘a‘o, thanks to the kokua of concerned citizens like you. If you find a seabird and are unsure what to do, please do not hesitate to call the SOS hotline at (808) 635-5117. Mahalo!
During the fledging season for Newell’s shearwater, juvenile birds are regularly attracted to artificial light sources, which they circle until they either collide with structures like buildings or become exhausted and then fall to the ground. This is called “fall-out” and happens predominantly in October. Concerned citizens then collect birds that they find and hand them over to SOS, or Save Our Shearwaters.
Saving fledgling Newell’s Shearwater is a great way for citizens to get involved in protecting these rare seabirds. Understanding how to distinguish between wedge-tailed and Newell’s shearwaters can arm you with the information to make the right call next time you find a seabird that may need your help.
The easiest way to tell these two seabirds apart is by feather coloration and pattern, or plumage. The Newell’s shearwater is black on top and white beneath, with a clean and distinct edge to its black markings along the face and neck. It also has a white “thumb-print” on either side of its flanks. Wedge-tailed shearwaters, or “wedgies”, can be found in two morphs, a light morph and a dark morph, but all wedgies are grey. Typically, wedgies seen on Kaua‘i are light-morphs, with dark-grey on top, light-grey below, and no distinct edge but rather a shaded gradient from dark to light grey along the face and neck. Wedgie feet are all pink while Newell’s feet are pink with black along the edges and toes. Although wedge-tailed shearwaters are larger than Newell’s, they are close enough in size that it is generally not a reliable way to determine species without a side-by-side comparison.