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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Post-release survival of fallout Newell’s shearwater fledglings from a rescue and rehabilitation program on Kauaʻi, Hawai‘i

André F. Raine*, Tracy Anderson, Megan Vynne, Scott Driskill, Helen Raine, Josh Adams

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Light attraction impacts fledgling seabirds worldwide and is a particularly acute problem on Kauaʻi (the northern-most island in the main Hawaiian Island archipelago) for the endangered Newell’s shearwater Puffinus newelli. The Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) program was created in 1979 to address this issue and to date has recovered and released to sea more than 30,552 fledglings. Although the value of the program for animal welfare is clear as birds cannot simply be left to die, no evaluation exists to inform post-release survival. We used satellite transmitters to track 38 fledglings released by SOS and compared survival rates (assessed by tag transmission duration) with 12 chicks that fledged naturally from the mountains of Kauaʻi. Wild fledglings transmitted longer than SOS birds and SOS birds with longer rehabilitation periods transmitted for a shorter duration than birds released immediately or rehabilitated for only one day. Although transmitter durations from grounded fledglings were shorter (indicating impacts to survivorship), some SOS birds did survive and dispersed out to sea. All surviving birds (wild and SOS) traveled more than 2,000 km to the southwest of Kauaʻi where they concentrated mostly in the North Pacific Equatorial Countercurrent Province, revealing a large-scale annual post-breeding aggregation zone for fledgling Newell’s shearwaters. While there was reduced survival among birds undergoing rehabilitation, SOS remains an important contribution toward the conservation of Newell’s shearwater because a proportion of released birds do indeed survive. However, light attraction – the root cause of fallout - remains a serious unresolved issue on Kaua’i.