We specialize in helping to develop translocation protocols and conduct translocations of sensitive bird species- from incubation of eggs through to fledging. Our staff are experts in avian husbandry and collectively have cared for most of Hawaii’s most endangered birds during their careers. We have now translocated five bird species as an organization- the Nihoa Millerbird, the Hawaiian Petrel, Newell’s Shearwater, Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses and have plans for three more species in the coming years. With all of our translocation projects, we also use social attraction to increase the chances of wild adults colonizing the area and to ensure the chicks imprint on the correct species.
Laysan and Black-footed Albatross translocations
In 2014, we began the first year of a long term project at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu to translocate Laysan Albatross eggs from PMRF on Kauai (learn more here), hatch them in incubators and hand-feed the chicks until fledging. The goal of the project is to use unwanted albatross eggs from an aircraft runway on Kauai and start a new albatross colony on Oahu where they will be safe. The chicks are cared for daily by our staff where they are fed a daily puree of squid, fish and salmon oil. Their growth is carefully monitored and the chicks that have fledged from this program have fledged in better body condition than their wild counterparts. The first two years have resulted in the successful fledging of 29 chicks and we expect the first chicks to start returning to the site as pre-breeding adults in 2018. In 2016 we constructed a predator proof fence to protect the new colony, and in early 2017 we brought 15 Black-footed Albatrosses in hopes of establishing the first main Island colony of this species. In future years, we plan to add more species from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands who are vulnerable to sea level rise. Partners on this project include U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Navy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the American Bird Conservancy.
Newell’s Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrel translocations
The Nihoku Ecosystem Restoration Project was created in 2012 in order to protect both rare coastal ecosystems as well as provide a predator-free nesting area for native ground-nesting birds in Hawaii. Nihoku is an area between Crater Hill and Mokolea Point at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore of Kaua`i. The project is a result of a large partnership between multiple government and non-profit groups who have come together to help preserve the native species of Hawaii; Pacific Rim Conservation serves as the overall project coordinator for this effort. The focus is on creating safe nesting habitat for Newell’s Shearwaters (‘A‘o) and Hawaiian Petrels (‘Ua‘u ), Hawai`i’s only two endemic seabirds. This project constructed a predator proof fence on the crater hill section of the refuge in 2014 to serve as a translocation site for Newell’s Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrels. In 2015, Hawaiian Petrel translocations began, and Newell’s Shearwater translocations started a year later in 2016. To date, 29 Hawaiian Petrels, and eight Newell’s Shearwaters were moved via helicopter into the fenced area and were successfully reared until fledging. The chicks are cared for daily by our staff where they are fed a daily puree of squid, fish and salmon oil. Their growth is carefully monitored and the chicks that have fledged from this program have fledged in better body condition than their wild counterparts; we expect the first Hawaiian Petrel chicks to start returning to the site as pre-breeding adults in 2018. For more information, download the Nihoku Brochure or visit www.nihoku.org.
For each seabird translocation project we do, social attraction systems are implemented in order to attract wild adults to the colony, and help the chicks in returning to the site as adults. Social attraction involves broadcasting the calls of the birds and in some cases (such as for surface nesting albatrosses) putting up artificial decoys and mirrors to visually attract them. In the case of the Black-footed Albatross translocation, we tried social attraction on it’s own for five years before moving to translocation to see if a colony would establish on it’s own at Kaena Point. While the number of visits by wild birds increased slightly, it did not result in the birds nesting. Results of that study can be found here.
Left: Wild Black-footed Albatross and decoys at Kaena Point. Right: Wild adult Laysan Albatrosses with decoys and sound system at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge.