Releasing the Shearwaters

Young birds and young people came together at Lydgate Park Tuesday for the ceremonial release of fledgling Native Newell’s Shearwater birds.

“We are wishing the birds well and talking to the kids a little bit about responsibility, how to take care of the island,” said Sabra Kukua, the Hawaiian Studies teacher who facilitated the ceremony. “It’s not just our island, as human beings, but it’s for the birds and the fish and the plants, too.”

Before taking flight, each bird looked around, glancing at the crowd of fourth-graders.

“I though it was so cool that all of the birds looked back at us,” said Marina Jovanovic, 9. “(Kukua) said they were asking us to take care of their home so they can come back here in a few years.”

Mike McFarlin, a staff member of Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, said Shearwater birds live only in Hawaii and 90 percent of them live on Kauai.

“It’s extremely important to expose the kids to these birds that they probably won’t otherwise see because they’re nocturnal and they live out in the mountains,” McFarlin said. “This is a really good opportunity to see an endangered bird up close.”

Island School fourth-graders took part in the seventh annual E Ho’opomaika’i’ia na Manu ‘A’o by doing a chant with Kukua, and watching each released bird until it faded out of sight over the ocean. The endangered seabirds will spend three or four years out at sea before they return to the island to breed.

“I liked how they put all the Hawaiian culture into the blessing,” said Maddie Hubbard, 9. “I liked how we did the chant and I liked watching the birds fly away.”

Kukua said the chant, used every year at the event, speaks about the beauty of Kauai and the Eastern coast.

“The whole school knows the chant now,” Kukua said. “It’s asking for protection for the birds so that they can live long, happy lives and that’s the same thing we wish for our children.”

The three released birds were rehabilitated Shearwater fledglings that had been rescued after being grounded by artificial lights. These birds use the light of the moon after hatching to navigate their way out to sea and artificial lights can confuse them.

“This can cause them to crash to the ground, where they get run over by cars or eaten by cats and dogs if they are not rescued,” Andre Raine, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project Coordinator, said. “At this time of year, we ask everyone to keep an eye out for fallen birds.”

If you find a downed seabird, place it in one of the aid stations at Kauai County fire stations or at the Hanalei Liquor Store and call the Save our Shearwaters hotline, (808) 635-5117.

The E Ho’opomaika’i’ia na Manu ‘A’o event will be held again this morning for Wilcox fourth-graders.

“There’s no better way to get kids to care, than by exposing them to the birds,” said Constance Johnson, a staff member with Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project. “It’s about letting people know that their actions make a difference.”


Written for The Garden Island Newsapaper, published on October 15, 2015. Photo by Jessica Else. 


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