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Unseen for 300 years, endangered seabirds heard on Oahu

Cara J

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It has been over 300 years since Newell’s shearwater (Puffinus newelli) and Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) colonies were detected on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Neither have been found since European contact in 1778. Only been random sightings of dead seabirds have occurred, suggesting the birds had blown in from a storm or been brought down by powerlines, not that they resided on the island. But researchers recently discovered that possible colonies of both endangered species may be on Oahu, offering hope for their declining populations. The stronghold for both species is found on the island of Kauai, and there their numbers are dwindling, said TWS member Lindsay Young, the lead author of the study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applicationsand the executive director of Pacific Rim Conservation.  Newell’s shearwater numbers have declined by 94 percent in the past 20 years, she said, and with most of the birds on just one island, they’re particularly vulnerable to events like hurricanes, which could devastate a population. In the study, Young and her colleagues were working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2016 to determine suitable habitat for the seabirds on all Hawaiian islands — except Oahu. They placed automated acoustic recording [...]

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