Injured and Abandoned Terns
If you find a chick alone in a tree
This chick is not abandoned. Adult manu-o-Kū fly to the ocean to feed, leaving their offspring alone at the nest site. Even day-old chicks are left by themselves for hours. The adults will return with fish to feed the chick throughout the day and will brood small chicks at night. If you find a chick by itself, please don’t worry – it's normal! Do not disturb the chick, its parents will return soon.
If you find a chick on the ground
Because of their risky nesting sites, a chick will occasionally fall from its branch. The ground is the most dangerous place for a chick as it is easy access for predators. While the chick will be unable to fly back to its nest site, it may try to climb the tree to return home. It is very important for the chick to be returned to a spot as close to its nesting site as possible. If it is returned to a different part of the tree, the adults will not recognize it as their own and may ignore or even attack it. If you find a chick and are certain of where its nest site is, you may try to place the chick back at its nest site. If you are sure of where the nest site is but it is unreachable or if you are unsure of the exact nest site, you should call the Manu-o-Ku Hotline at (808) 379-7555 for assistance. If possible, you should wait with the chick until help arrives, leaving it where it is. If you cannot stay, you should place the chick as high off the ground as possible and close to the site at which you found it, keeping it safe from predators. Make sure the first responder will be able to locate the chick. If a chick is not able to be returned to its nest site, please refer to the next section.
If you find an injured manu-o-Kū
If you find an adult manu-o-Kū on the ground, it is likely injured. Manu-o-Kū spend all of their time in flight or in trees, never on the ground. If you do find an injured adult, you should contact the Manu-o-Kū Hotline at (808) 379-7555. The Hotline is open for business 24/7 and the Hui is now the recognized "first responder" for white terns on Oahu.
If the bird needs emergency care, a citizen may transport the bird to a licensed veterinarian who may care for the bird for 24 hours before transporting it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. While it is illegal to transport manu-o-Kū, there is a “Good Samaritan” provision of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that allows one to capture, possess and transport the bird just long enough to deliver it to a licensed rehabilitator or veterinarian.
After contacting the Manu-o-Kū Hotline and you are advised to transport the injured manu-o-Kū, you may carefully approach the bird and gently pick it up. Birds breathe by expanding their ribcage which is more delicate than mammals. It’s important not to squeeze or confine their bodies too tightly. You should place the bird in a towel, t-shirt or small sheet, making sure the top of the bird is covered. A manu-o-Kū’s only defense is its long, sharply pointed bill, so be careful when handling the bird and keep them out of reach from your face or eyes. Place the bird in a clean, dry, well-ventilated, covered container (cardboard box, plastic tub, pet carrier, etc.). You should lay a towel or t-shirt on the bottom of the container. Do not give the bird water or food. Keep the container in a cool, dry and quiet place while transporting it to a rehabilitator or veterinarian.
For more information on what to do with an injured bird, please visit Hawai'i Wildlife Center's website.
Tree Trimming Information
Tree trimmers have a delicate relationship with manu-o-Kū. If trimming isn't done with care, branches that host a nest may be lost. A chick that falls from its nest to the ground will likely die because either the parents won't be able to care for it or it may be attacked by a predator. However, tree trimming can actually be beneficial to manu-o-Kū. Trimming can lead to a scar or cup to be formed in the branch. This creates an ideal nesting site that will protect the egg and chick. Keeping a tree trimmed can also make it easier for adults to fly in and out of the tree. Tree trimming may be one explanation for why there are so many manu-o-Kū in Honolulu, but it must be done with the utmost care to ensure no nesting sites are being destroyed.
Tree trimming tips