Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project (MNSRP) conducts research to locate and monitor seabird populations in Hawaii. MNSRP also partners with local and visiting researchers to study seabird diet, foraging, and genetics.
Since seabirds make loud and distinctive vocalizations, acoustic surveys are an excellent way to determine seabird presence. MNSRP conducts acoustic surveys by performing night point counts, during which staff records every call heard in an area. When used in conjunction with thermal imaging cameras, these counts can confidently determine seabird presence in an area. MNSRP uses song meters to collect acoustic data over long periods of time, which provides information about the relative abundance, phenology, and presence of endangered seabirds such as the Hawaiian petrel, Newell’s shearwater, and Band-rumped storm-petrel.
The majority of seabirds that breed in Maui Nui make or occupy burrows in rock, stone, sand, or vegetation. MNSRP conducts thorough and systematic burrow searches to locate undocumented seabird burrows. Finding burrows occurs prior to burrow monitoring and management actions. MNSRP staff has found more than 80 Hawaiian petrel burrows as a result of these efforts.
After seabird burrows are identified, they are monitored to assess levels of activity and estimate reproductive success of seabird colonies. Long term burrow monitoring can be used to assess seabird population stability and reproductive rates. Although burrows of different species are monitored at different rates based on their accessibility, monitoring consists of regular burrow visits to the same individual burrows and recording signs of activity throughout the breeding season. MNSRP assesses seabird activity using a burrowscope to see into nest chambers, game cameras to watch bird activity outside burrow entrances, and through external signs of activity such as feathers, footprints, and droppings.
Banding is the process of applying a metal band bearing a unique identification number to the leg of a bird. Metal bands are small, unobtrusive, and made to last for the duration of a seabird’s life. Banding allows us to study seabirds over a long period of time and follow the movements of individual birds. We can study population wide patterns of dispersal by banding chicks and recapturing years later as adults. The State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources has been banding Wedge-tailed Shearwaters locally since 1996 and had partnered with MNSRP for bi-annual banding since 2006.
Programs that utilize this method: Save Our Seabirds
MNSRP uses satellite, and Geo-locator, and GPS tags to track seabirds. Satellite tags are attached to the seabirds back with thread and are able to send real-time data via satellites to researchers. Geo-locator tags are placed on the leg of a bird and data is collected once the tag is retrieved from the bird. These tags can continue to record data for over a year, making them excellent for studying long term migratory or foraging patterns. GPS tags are placed on the backs of seabirds with tape so they can naturally fall off of the bird in case they aren’t collected within a few days, making them ideal for studying short-term foraging.