Endangered ‘Ua‘u Released Successfully

When it comes to successful wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, the old adage “it takes a village” rings true. An endangered ‘Ua‘u (Hawaiian Petrel) is back in the wild thanks to the rapid response and partnership of many, including Pulama Lana‘i, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), multiple community members, Kohala Dental Center, Maui Save Our Seabirds, and the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center.

All photos courtesy of Hawai‘i Wildlife Center

The ‘Ua‘u was found injured on Lana‘i after a suspected structure collision. The bird was suffering from head trauma, an injury to its left eye, damage to the tip of its beak, and neurological issues. The rescuers coordinated with the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center, the bird was flown to Hawai‘i Island on April 19 and was then brought to the HWC wildlife hospital from the airport by Wheels for Wildlife transport volunteer, Paul McCollam. The extensive list of injuries led HWC to give the bird a guarded prognosis after it was evaluated by HWC Primary Care Veterinarian Dr. Juan Guerra. It was started on an aggressive course of treatment, including antibiotics, eye drops, nutritional support and hydration. HWC staff administered treatment three times a day every day and remained committed to the bird’s recovery.

“This case really highlights the importance of giving downed birds a chance to rehabilitate,” said Samantha Christie, HWC Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager. “This bird would have perished if not for the quick response on Lana‘i and the intensive care provided at HWC.”

The ‘Ua‘u continued its recovery, gaining strength and exhibiting more feisty natural behavior, and on May 1 it was placed on a conditioning pool for the first time. After watching the bird spend multiple days on the pool, HWC wildlife staff determined that the bird’s feathers were able to provide the necessary waterproofing and were encouraged to see the patient exhibiting normal behavior. All signs pointed towards release.

Before the bird was ready to be released, a few last details needed to be addressed. HWC wildlife rehabilitation staff performed a unique procedure using dental epoxy generously provided by Kohala Dental Center to repair the bird’s damaged beak. The day before release, the bird was banded by DOFAW staff with a band that was provided by Maui Save Our Seabirds and flown in the night before. Then she was ready for return to the wild.

Since seabirds naturally fly long distances, HWC was granted permission from USFWS and DOFAW to release the Lana‘i ‘Ua‘u on Hawai‘i Island. The release location, Kawaihae Harbor, was chosen based on the close proximity to the Center. Michael Huber, another HWC volunteer, carefully kayaked the ‘Ua‘u out of the harbor and the bird was released to favorable winds and calm seas. During its initial examination at the HWC wildlife hospital, HWC wildlife staff found a brood patch indicating that the bird was a breeding adult. HWC staff expects the bird to eventually navigate back home to Lana‘i to breed.

The Hawaiian Petrel, or ‘Ua‘u in Hawaiian, is an endangered species that feeds in in the open ocean. This large seabird is strictly pelagic and is only seen on land when nesting. (A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Hawai‘i. Jim Denny. University of Hawaii Press, 2010.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I do this to keep the spammers away * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.