About the Freeman Seabird Preserve
In September 2007, the Hawai’i Audubon Society was given a one-acre coastal property at Black Point on the southern coast of O’ahu thanks to an unprecedented gift from the Houghton Freeman Foundation. This parcel has long been a nesting area for Wedge-tailed Shearwaters ('uau kani, Puffinus pacificus) and is the only habitat of its kind remaining on Oahu's south shore. Restoring this property from a vacant residential lot into a native coastal habitat supporting a shearwater breeding colony is an ongoing project of the Hawai’i Audubon Society.
Each year, volunteers continue to remove invasive plants from the Preserve, which is a never-ending task that must be accomplished during the 3-month period from January through March, when there are no Shearwaters in residence. Work is also done to open up blocked burrows, clean and remove litter from the area, and conduct any necessary predator control.
Population monitoring of the colony is conducted by Dr. David Hyrenbach, Professor of Oceanography, and his students at Hawai’i Pacific University. An annual colony count is completed during the peak incubation period (July 14th) and once the chicks have hatched (September 14th).
In 2019, we documented 636 Wedge-tailed Shearwaters breeding at the Freeman Seabird Preserve. This is the highest count to date, over the last 11 years.
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters are named for the shape of their tail and for their habit of soaring low above the waves in an undulating pattern. These seabirds nest in colonies along coasts and on offshore islands by burrowing in sandy soil and seeking shade amidst native vegetation on rocky slopes. At Blackpoint, they historically occupied crevices in the lava boulders and nested under the native coastal vegetation.
Adults arrive in March to prepare a burrow and mate, then lay a single white egg by mid June. The chicks hatch by mid August and fledge by mid November. All the young leave their nests and fly out to sea by December. Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, like all seabirds, are fully protected by both Federal (Migratory Bird Treaty Act) and State law (Wild Bird Law). Yet, they are not considered a threatened or endangered species in the United States or internationally.
To learn more about the "wedgies," listen to this 7-minute interview of Dr. Hyrenbach by Hawaii Public Radio about these fascinating seabirds and the Preserve.
State of Hawaii
Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife
Protected Wildlife Permit for Scientific Research, #WL-11-0 and #14-05
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Federal Bird Banding Permit, # 23317