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 focus their management efforts, including targeting specific areas for predator control. Detection dogs are able to locate seabird burrows despite any visual evidence.
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. In the fall of 2022, we conducted a trial to assess the efficacy and efficiency of dogs detecting seabirds in cover. The dog teams found 90% of the targets, while visual searchers found 56.7%. We are planning another trial and pilot project on Kaua‘i in 2023.
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 Hawai‘i and US Fish & Wildlife Service to conduct downed seabird surveys with detection dogs.