Photos above from Shutterstock
What and Why: The Hawaiian islands provide habitat and nesting grounds to a variety of seabird species including endangered ones. In addition to tree nesters and ground nesters, there are nocturnal burrowing birds that are especially vulnerable to feral cats, mongooses and rats. Due to the cryptic nesting habits of these burrowing seabirds, it can be hard to know where their nests are, which in turn can make it challenging to protect them from predators. Locating seabird burrows will allow state and federal agencies to target specific areas for building predator-proof fencing to protect the birds. CDH began this work in 2021.
Seabirds are also vulnerable to a phenomenon called “fallout,” where fledging seabird chicks mistake urban artificial lights for the moon, are drawn to them, get confused or injured, and fall to the ground. If the birds are promptly rescued from the ground, the birds have a higher chance of avoiding predators, illness and death. Injured birds may hide in vegetation in order to protect themselves, making them difficult to detect. We think sniffer dogs will improve the detection effort. CDH is planning a trial and pilot project in 2022.
Target Seabird Species: Hawaiian petrel (‘ua‘u), Newell’s shearwater (a‘o), Band-rumped storm petrel (‘ake‘ake), and wedge-tailed shearwater (‘ua‘u kani)
Where: Hawaiian islands
Qualifications: CDH is permitted through the State of Hawaii and US Fish & Wildlife Services to conduct downed seabird surveys with detection dogs. Handler Kyoko Johnson and K9 Guinness are certified as a seabird detection team through American Society of Canine Trainers.