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Features stories about U.S. service members and military operations from around the world.


Plight of the Shearwater

December 4th, 2015

Episode 274 of 301 episodes

Currently the Newell Shearwater is one of four endangered seabirds on Kauai. Nesting in the most remote mountains and ridges of Kauai, Newell’s Shearwaters are pelagic sea birds, spending most of their lives at sea, flying over land only during total darkness. Similarly, armed with only their inborn navigational skills, young fledglings will fly out to sea for the first time ever in total darkness, using the stars and moon to find their way to the sea. Unfortunately, human development, with all of its artificial lighting, has caused these young fledgling birds to be confused as they fly out to sea for their first time. As a result, Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (PMRF), has become increasingly involved in conservation efforts to assist in preserving the Newell Shearwater population. These efforts include a “Dark Skies Program,” in which all non-mission critical lights are turned off, or shielded, during the time of the year young fledglings take to the sea. PMRF has also implemented another new strategy this year to complement the dark skies program — radar ornithology. PMRF uses the radar at night to determine the flight passage of Newell’s Shearwaters overhead through radar. By using these specialized radars, researchers are able to determine not only the number of birds flying overhead, but also the direction they are going. Scientists conclude without intervention, their populations are sure to continue to decrease.

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