At low elevation, adult seabirds are much less likely to be attracted to lights. Adult seabirds, however, migrate back and forth on a daily basis during chick rearing, bringing food to their immobile young in the burrow. Thus adults have many more opportunities to collide with powerlines or utility structures. And the death of a breeding adult will often mean the remaining chick is undernourished and unable to successfully fledge. Just as with the downed fledglings, the adult seabirds cannot take off directly from the ground without a clear area. Thus they are subject to high mortality caused by automobiles, dogs, cats, and starvation.
The phenomenon of seabirds falling to the ground during the night due to light attraction has been termed “fallout”. This can actually occur at all life history stages, but primarily affects fledglings and a smaller portion of adults that fallout due to collisions.
The fallout period during the autumn months was first noticed in the 1960s with increased tourism development on Kaua‘i. Between 1979-2015, more than 32,000 seabirds, mostly threatened Newell’s shearwaters, were recovered through voluntary public assistance in annual “fallout” rescue efforts known as “Save Our Shearwaters” (SOS – initiated by the DLNR and supported by KIUC). Kaua‘i’s SOS Program has succeeded for decades thanks to the community which assists greatly each fall with the rescue of downed seabirds. Unfortunately, it is estimated that less than half of the fallout birds are found each year (Ainley 1995).
In the big picture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the federal agency that is responsible for “recovering” the species, or finding solutions to the many threats that are causing species decline. The Recovery Plan for these seabirds was written in 1983, with subsequent 5 Year Action Plans helping to update the strategy for recovery by applying new information and new conservation tools.
The Kaua‘i Seabird HCP is not a recovery plan, but the conservation actions identified in the plan are based on the information from the USFWS on how to best help the seabird populations stabilize and increase. This HCP will identify ways to minimize light attraction problems during the fledging season. And to mitigate for the downed birds that cannot be prevented, it contains conservation actions to reduce predation on eggs, chicks, sub-adults and adults. The hope is that through these multiple efforts, Newell’s shearwater, Hawaiian petrels and band-rumped storm petrel will thrive and continue to be an important part of the ecosystem on Kaua‘i!
That's great, but who should apply?