HONOLULU (KHON2) — Do not be alarmed if you have seen blue ribbons on trees in Downtown Honolulu.

They are to point out where Honolulu’s official City bird — the white tern — is nesting.

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The white terns — or Manu-o-Kū in Hawaiian — do not nest in the usual sense, however.

“In the case of the white terns, they don’t actually build a nest, they just lay the egg directly on the surface of the branch.”

Rich Downs, Hui Manu-o-Kū coordinator

“But this population has been breeding since 1961 in the greater Honolulu area. And so far, we’ve not seen them beyond the current range that we’ve documented,” Downs said.

The chicks of white terns have a higher risk of falling out of trees because their parents do not build nests. There are a several trees marked with blue ribbons along Kapiolani Boulevard, the Hawaii Wildlife Center told KHON2 they treated dozens of young birds in 2021.

“Last year, we had about over 50 white terns — Manu-o-Kū — come to the hospital,” said Rae Okawa, Hawaii Wildlife Center development coordinator. “Most of them were falling out of trees and weren’t able to be reunited.”

Manu-o-Kū can not be treated and simply released back into the wild; They need to learn proper behavior from parents or other birds.

“So we can’t just do that to them and send them off and say, you know, ‘Good luck, you’re on your own,'” Okawa said. “They get put into a tree where there are wild birds around and they’re able to learn from their peers how to be a tern and how to survive on their own.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife told KHON2 white terns are listed as threatened under Hawaii law and have a population of about 1,800. Threatened species carry a $5,000 fine for every animal that is intentionally removed or killed.

Experts say to call Hui Manu-o-Kū‘s hotline at 808-379-7555 if a tern has fallen to the ground and Downs’ organization will get it the help it needs.

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“So no need to be alarmed, if you find a chick under the tree, note that phone number and give us a call so we can attempt to reunite it with it’s parents,” Downs said