Letters 2-2-14


Egrets and owls threaten ecosystem

Cattle egrets and barn owls are beautiful birds — but in Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem, they’re bulls in a china shop.

The Draft Environmental Assessment regarding control of the birds states “Both cattle egrets and barn owls have been documented to prey upon native species, including waterbird and seabird species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and to compete with native species for food resources. … Attempts have been made to control cattle egrets and barn owls through site-specific permits, but these … have proven to have limited success. Removal … is necessary for recovery of threatened and endangered Hawaiian waterbirds and seabirds.”

The draft EA finds that “No measurable decline in rodent or horn fly populations (pests that owls and egrets were brought in to control) has been associated with cattle egret or barn owl populations.”

The draft EA adds “Several near collisions and aborted landings have occurred at General Lyman Field (GLF) in Hilo as a result of cattle egrets. … Threats to aviation have also occurred at the Honolulu (O‘ahu), Kahului (Maui) and Lihue (Kaua‘i) airports.”

The draft EA also finds that “Global populations of both cattle egrets and barn owls are stable or increasing, and removal of the introduced populations in Hawaii, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and the unincorporated territory of Midway Atoll will not have significant population level impacts on either species.”

Cory Harden

Hilo