An endangered ‘Ua‘u from Lanai was released back in to the wild after a group effort to rescue the injured Hawaiian Petrel.
The ‘Ua‘u was found injured on Lanai last month after a suspected structure collision. The bird was suffering from extensive injuries including head trauma, an injury to its left eye, damage to the tip of its beak, and neurological issues.
A rescue was rapidly put together with help from Pulama Lanai, 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 Hawaii Wildlife Center.
The initial rescuers coordinated with the HWC to make accommodations for the bird’s treatment. The ‘Ua‘u was flown to the Big Island on April 19 and brought to the HWC wildlife hospital from the airport by Wheels for Wildlife transport volunteer Paul McCollam.
The bird was given a guarded prognosis after it was evaluated by the center’s 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 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. It was placed on a conditioning pool for the first time on May 1. 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, 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 the May 5 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.
Since seabirds naturally fly long distances, HWC was granted permission from USFWS and DOFAW to release the Lanai ‘Ua‘u on the Big Island. The release location, Kawaihae Harbor, was chosen based on the close proximity to the center. HWC volunteer Michael Huber 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 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.
The Hawaii Wildlife Center is a professional wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and conservation organization that specializes in the care and protection of native Hawaiian birds and the Hawaiian hoary bat. The HWC wildlife hospital in Kapa‘au meets all federal, state, and local standards for rescue and rehabilitation efforts to aid sick, injured and oiled wildlife. HWC is fully permitted for the rehabilitation of all native bird species and the Hawaiian hoary bat and receives patients from all islands. The Wheels for Wildlife program is a volunteer network of drivers and pilots that transport native wildlife to and from HWC.
Photo courtesy of Hawaii Wildlife Center