Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Hawaiian seabirds at risk from utility cooperative

Three seabirds in the Hawaiian Islands prompted a utility cooperative on Kauai to submit a draft Habitat Conservation Plan and an Environmental Assessment for public review. The HCP and EA are part of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative's application for an incidental take permit for bird species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The public may review and comment on the documents until Nov. 29.

The three species are Hawaiian Petrel (endangered, right), Newell's Shearwater (threatened, below) and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (a candidate for listing). According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
The three seabirds breed on Kauai, feed in the open ocean and spend the majority of the year at sea. Adults generally return to their colonial nesting grounds in the interior mountains of Kauai beginning in March and April and depart beginning in September.

Fledglings – young birds learning how to fly – travel from the nesting colony to the sea in the fall. Both adults and fledglings are known to collide with tall buildings, towers, powerlines, and other structures while flying at night between their nesting colonies and at-sea foraging areas.

These birds, particularly fledglings, are also attracted to bright lights that disorient them. Disoriented birds are commonly observed circling around exterior light sources until they fall to the ground or collide with structures, resulting in possible injury or death.
KIUC has requested an incidental take permit because its lawful activities - generating and distributing electricity - will cause the occasional death of a bird during the operation and maintenance of its facilities during the next five years. The draft HCP describes KIUC's plans to "minimize, mitigate and monitor" incidental take.

For many more details about the draft HCP and EA, visit the link above.

Hawaiian Petrel, top, courtesy of Jim Denny/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Newell's Shearwater courtesy of Brenda Zaun/USFWS

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