PALYMYRA ATOLL, Hawaii (KHON2) — Nature has an amazing ability to recover from human interference. But, sometimes, even nature a bit of help to reverse human interference.
This has lead organizations like the Nature Conservancy Hawai‘i to step in.
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The Nature Conservancy Hawai‘i (NCH) and Palmyra have announced that a tiny grey-backed tern chick has been observed at Palmyra Atoll. This siting has validated that their seabird attraction efforts are working.
Can you spot the wee baby bird?
Their camouflage protects the grey-backed tern chicks from predators. So, do you see it?
This bird is one of eight seabird species that is known to the region; however, according to NCH, the theory is that rats were introduced to the atoll during World War II which led to the absence of the birds in the area for years.
“It is very exciting to observe this grey-backed tern chick at Palmyra,” says Hannah Martin, TNC Palmyra Conservation Science Volunteer.
This led to an intensive initiative in 2011 that successfully eradicated these rodents from Palmyra Atoll.
Hence, in 2020, scientists decided to take a new approach in attracting the birds to their traditional nesting spot.
These scientists began deploying social attraction techniques including wooden seabird decoys.
They also utilized sound and mimicked colonies they call “seabird discotheques”. These discotheques play the calls of the eight absent seabirds 24/7.
“An important part of our work as Science Volunteers at Palmyra is to maintain the social attraction sites and record observations or indications of the seabirds we’re trying to attract back to Palmyra. It’s very rewarding to see a first indicator of success!” said Martin.
Grey-backed terns (Sterna lunata), orPākalakala in Hawaiian, are found in Hawai‘i as well as other remote islands across the Pacific. While they are not endangered, they are especially vulnerable to invasive predators as they lay a single egg per season. They feed on small fish and squid.
“The discovery of this chick is very exciting because it signals we are moving in the right direction with our seabird restoration efforts at Palmyra,” says Katie Franklin, Palmyra Island Conservation Strategy Lead.
The Palmyra Atoll is located south of Hawaiʻi and north of America Samoa, about half-way in-between.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service said that Palmyra is a National Wildlife Refuge.
According to NCH, approximately 30% of seabirds are endangered. This makes them one of the most threatened bird groups on the planet.
“We are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enhance Palmyra’s seabird habitat and maintain social attraction sites across the atoll to encourage seabirds extirpated from the atoll to come home and settle down,” added Franklin.
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Seabirds play a vital role in island ecosystems since their guano provides nutrients for plants and trees on land and directly increases the health and resilience of coral reefs and fish.