Hawaiian Petrels: Refugees of the Sea

Hawaiian petrels aren’t the largest seabirds in the ocean. They’re no albatross. But with a three-foot wingspan, they can still cover some ground–er, water. According to the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, an adult bird will fly over 6,000 miles in a  single foraging trip to provide a meal for its chick. I’d say that’s impressive. I mean, I know my mom loves me and she’s trekked to the local grocer before to buy ingredients to make a favorite dish of mine, but she’s never flown to, say, France and back to provide me dinner.

Hawaiian petrels may look remarkably similar to other petrels and, even, shearwaters, but they are endemic to Hawaii. That is, found here and nowhere else in the world. Whereas, once, they were one of the most common seabirds found in Hawaii, they are now endangered. It’s highly likely that the only reason they’re still around is that they were once so populous, from seaside to mountaintop. Unfortunately, they’re now only found in the far reaches of a few of Hawaii’s islands mountains, and that population is estimated to have been decimated by 75 percent in the past 20 years.

But here’s the thing, a whole group of people, including a non-profit, NGO, national wildlife refuge, and local and state agencies have come together to help save the species. I like that kind of collaboration.

I was honored to write about the project for Hakai Magazine a couple weeks ago, and I’d be honored if you gave it read. You can find my story on Hawaiian Petrels here.

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