An endangered Hawaiian petrel burrow and baby chick were discovered in the Pu‘u O Umi Natural Area Reserve on Kohala Mountain last month, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Wednesday.
This is the first documentation of a new petrel, or ‘ua‘u, colony endemic to Kohala.
“This was a long work in progress,” said Alex Wang, endangered forest bird field supervisor for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. “A few years ago, we began hearing ‘ua‘u calling at night while constructing watershed fencing in remote parts of windward Kohala. While this indicated ‘ua’u were breeding in the area, we didn’t get confirmation until a month ago when we found the burrow and the chick. When I joined the program in 2016, I began trying to find exactly where they breed.”
Wang says the quest was made difficult because the area is extremely remote, and he and others only had access a few times each year.
During their visits, the team used night and infrared vision devices to try and see the birds. They also deployed remote acoustic devices that are left in the field for months at a time in an attempt to narrow down their search area.
That led them to begin focusing on the back rim of Waimanu Valley. With additional night surveys, they began searching areas thought to possibly have high burrow activity.
In August, researchers successfully tagged four birds with GPS trackers.
DLNR said the team has only gotten data from one of the birds, but its “tracks” led them directly to the burrow. The chick was found Oct. 28.
According to DLNR, work is underway to develop a plan to manage the unique population of the endangered species at Kohala, including reducing any threats the birds face.