After 50 years of silence, endangered seabird heard on Maunakea

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Tracy D Orillo-Donovan, (808) 956-7520
Communications Spec, UH Communications
Posted: May 17, 2019

An archival image of an ʻuaʻu, or Hawaiian petrel. Image courtesy of CreativeCommons.
An archival image of an ʻuaʻu, or Hawaiian petrel. Image courtesy of CreativeCommons.

For the first time in more than 50 years, the sound of the ʻuaʻu or Hawaiian petrel [Pterodroma sandwichensis] was heard on Maunakea, thanks to research funded by the University of Hawaiʻi Office of Maunakea Management and the hard work of the UH Hilo Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems Bioacoustics Lab.

The ʻuaʻu forage at sea and fly inland after sunset to build underground nests in higher elevation areas throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including Kauai, Haleakalā on Maui, Maunaloa on Hawaiʻi Island and Lana‘ihale on Lana‘i. They are a state and federally listed endangered species and are highly susceptible to introduced predators such as cats and mongooses when they are nesting.

“Finding ʻuaʻu on Maunakea has been a very challenging and rewarding experience,” said UH Hilo graduate student Bret Nainoa Mossman, who along with UH Hilo researcher Patrick Hart have been looking and listening for the seabirds and ʻōpeʻapeʻa, or Hawaiian hoary bats, at high elevations on Maunakea. “For me, it is a feeling of relief and hope to know that the ʻuaʻu of Maunakea have been able to survive despite all of the challenges they face and it is heartening to know that this species is still here for future generations to see and appreciate.”

The ʻuaʻu has been detected acoustically since 2018 at many locations near Maunakea’s Puʻukanakaleonui. In addition, a dead ʻuaʻu was recently found in the forest reserve above Puʻukanakaleonui on the eastern slope of Red Hill. Rediscovering ‘ua’u on Maunakea indicates the species likely continues to use the mountain as a nesting site.