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For Immediate Release:  October 18, 2022


(LIHU’E) –  ‘A‘o (Newell’s Shearwater) are the beneficiaries of a tradition on Kaua‘i. On Monday, students from Island School released two fledgling ‘A‘o, during the annual  Ho‘opomaika‘i ‘ia na Manu ‘A‘o , meaning a cultural release of the native Newell’s Shearwater, at Lydgate Park. The annual affair is organized by the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project (KESRP) and the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) Program, both of which are supported by DLNR.

Every year, SOS rehabilitates both ‘A‘o and U‘au (Hawaiian Petrel) that face a variety of threats, including powerline collisions and being attracted to artificial lights. In recent decades, both species have suffered severe declines on Kaua‘i. Studies by KESRP have shown that between 1993 and 2013 the island’s population of ‘A‘o declined by 94% and U‘au by 78%.

In October, the light attraction becomes a particular concern for ‘A‘o. This is the peak month when young ‘A‘o leave their burrows for the first time and head out to sea. Often, after leaving their birthplaces in remote mountain areas, they’re attracted to bright artificial lights. They end up circling them until they end up exhausted and grounded. Once grounded, they can’t take off easily and if not rescued by people, they become prey to cats and dogs or are run over by cars. Many are never found.

Dilek Sahin, the KESRP coordinator, said the hands-on, up-close encounters with the typically out-of-sight birds is invaluable. “As the next generation of leaders on Kaua‘i, today’s keiki will be responsible for protecting these seabirds. When they see young ‘A‘o for themselves, they form a personal connection that will last a lifetime.”

Before today’s release, KESRP staff went to various schools to give presentations on Kauai‘s endangered seabirds. The children learned fun facts about the island’s three endangered seabirds, and why Kaua‘i is such an important place for them, as it holds an estimated 90% of the world population of the ‘A‘o. After the school visits, students were asked why it was so important to protect Kaua‘i’s endangered seabirds, and they were quick to answer.

  • Sophia Kua said, “We should protect ‘A‘o because they lay only one egg a year.”
  • Elise Lawhon added, “I think we should protect ‘A‘o because we need them to keep a good balance in the forest ecosystem.”
  • Aine Conway said, “We should protect ‘A‘o because all birds are welcome, and no bird should have to go extinct.”
  • Taylor Agustin added, “They have an important role to play on our islands, they were used by navigators to find their home.”

This time of year, everyone is asked to keep an eye out for fallen birds. If found, they should be carefully collected and placed in one of the aid stations located at Kaua‘i County fire stations and other locations around the island. They’re then picked up by the Save Our Shearwaters staff. The fallout season continues until mid-December.

KESRP is a joint project between the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), and the Pacific Co-operative Studies Unit of the University of Hawai‘i. SOS, initiated by DOFAW, is an Unincorporated Nonprofit Association, funded predominantly by the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative.

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Photos/video – ‘A‘o releases (Courtesy: KESRP/DLNR, Oct. 17, 2022):



Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources

[email protected]