Episode 16: Seabird Sanctuary
All around the world, seabirds provide a critical link between land and sea. On Hawai’i, ecologists are working to protect two vital shearwater species that helped life first take hold across these islands.
While seabirds predominantly reside at sea, they return to land to breed and raise their young. In this process, they deposit mineral-rich nutrients that sustain the whole island ecosystem. But the arrival of human settlers introduced non-native predators and extensive development. Together, these compromised many seabird habitats — and decimated their populations. Several species are now teetering on the brink of extinction.
The Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project engages a multifaceted approach to protect these crucial birds: eliminating invasive predators, restoring native plants, and monitoring burrows for fledgling success. In one instance, they have established a dedicated sanctuary complete with artificial burrows, bird-shaped decoys, and audio speakers to attract one highly endangered shearwater species. Through their efforts, the team gives seabirds a chance to raise the next generation on the very islands they helped bring to life.