PMRF begins ‘Dark Skies’ to protect endangered seabirds

File photo

Robert Purdy

Pacific Missile Range Facility Public Affairs

Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) will be turning off all non-essential lighting and modifying nighttime operations beginning today to help protect the Newell’s Shear-water and Hawaiian Petrel, two of Hawaii’s sea-birds protected by the Endangered Species Act.

During the shearwater fledging season which runs from Sept. 15 to Dec. 15, these mountain-nesting birds leave the safety of their nests to make their nocturnal maiden fights to sea using the position of the stars and natural moonlight to navigate their courses.

Unfortunately, a number of these birds become disoriented by mistaking manmade lights for natural moonlight, as they fly over inhabited areas of the island. This can result in a bird accidently flying into the side of a building, hitting an electric power cable, or circling a light until they are too exhausted to reroute to sea, eventually falling to the ground where they sustain injury, risk being hit by a car or fall prey to domestic and wild animals.

This is the third year that PMRF is initiating the base wide “Dark Skies” program and PMRF personnel have been preparing for the season by conducting pre-season lighting checks, identifying potential areas to minimize impact, informing and educating base personnel and ensuring procedures are in place to aid an injured bird in need of assistance.

In addition to working on mitigation plans with the various departments on the base, additional training was held for the children and families of base housing by PMRF biologists, Rebecca Johnson and Rachael Herring. The training covered topics such as the natural history of the birds, threats that the birds currently face, why PMRF holds “Dark Skies,” what the families on base can do to help, what to do if they find a bird in need of help as well as information on other protected species at PMRF.

“Simple steps like turning off all unnecessary outdoor lighting, drawing curtains and blinds during the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., keeping pets leashed and supervised at all times and refraining from feeding wildlife to include feral cats, will all help in protecting these endangered birds,” Johnson said.

If you should happen to find an injured seabird on PMRF, please call the PMRF Natural Resources duty phone at 208-4416. Do not attempt to approach or move the bird unless it is in immediate danger. If you must move the bird, use thick gloves or a piece of cloth to cover the head, slowly grabbing it from behind. Ensure a firm grip, keeping the wings from flapping but paying special attention not to squeeze too tight. Place the bird in a well ventilated box or pet carrier and transfer it to the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) aid station box located outside the PMRF Pass and I.D. office at the main gate. Do not give food or water to the bird. If at all possible, maintain watch over the bird until PMRF Security or PMRF Environmental personnel can transport it to rehabilitation professional.

PMRF works closely with federal and state agencies, schools, conservation organizations, the public and the host community to implement groundbreaking initiatives towards conservation, environmental protection and the protection of endangered species.

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Category: News