UH Hilo bioaccoustics researchers hear endangered seabird on Maunakea

For the first time in more than 50 years, the sound of the ‘ua‘u or Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) was heard on Maunakea thanks to research funded by the Office of Maunakea Management and done by UH Hilo bioaccoustics researchers.

‘Ua‘u on grassy field.
‘Ua‘u or Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis). Photo USFWS.

Lab logo with graphic image of bird and whale with words: Listening Obserrvatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems, LOHE Bioaccoustics Lab, University of Hawaii at Hilo.For the first time in more than 50 years, the sound of the ‘ua‘u or Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) was heard on Maunakea, thanks to research funded by the University of Hawai‘i Office of Maunakea Management and the hard work of the UH Hilo Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems (LOHE) bioacoustics Lab.

The ‘ua‘u forage at sea and fly inland after sunset to build underground nests in higher elevation areas throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including Kaua‘i, Haleakalā on Maui, Maunaloa on Hawai‘i Island and Lāna‘ihale on Lāna‘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.

Patrick Hart in the forest.
Patrick Hart

“Finding ‘ua‘u on Maunakea has been a very challenging and rewarding experience,” says Bret Nainoa Mossman, a UH Hilo graduate student who, along with UH Hilo researcher Patrick Hart, has been looking and listening for the seabirds and  ‘ōpe‘ape‘a, or Hawaiian hoary bats, at high elevations on Maunakea. “For me, it is a feeling of relief and hope to know that the ‘ua‘u 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 ‘ua‘u has been detected acoustically since 2018 at many locations near Maunakea’s Pu‘ukanakaleonui. In addition, a dead ‘ua‘u was recently found in the forest reserve above Pu‘ukanakaleonui 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.

 

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