▶ Watch Video: Nature: Mauna Loa volcano

About a month before Mauna Loa began erupting, an endangered seabird fledgling was seen on camera emerging from a burrow on the volcano, officials said Tuesday. It’s the first confirmed ‘akē’akē, also known as the band-rumped storm petrel, nest found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, according to the National Park Service. 

Band-rumped storm petrel nests are extremely difficult to find, according to researchers, because the birds don’t leave a lot of evidence behind. Researchers said the nest was originally detected by a dog named Slater, part of the Hawaii Detector Dogs.

“Biologists in the park have known of the presence of ʻakēʻakē on Mauna Loa since the 1990s. In 2019, ʻakēʻakē burrow calls were recorded during acoustic monitoring which indicated nesting. The lack of visual signs like guano at their nest sites make them extremely hard for humans to locate,” said University of Hawaii biologist Charlotte Forbes Perry in a news release.

An ʻakēʻakē fledgling caught on a wildlife camera. Its nest is located on Mauna Loa.

National Park Service

But once Slater was brought in, he was able to locate the ʻakēʻakē nest and three other nests in two days, Perry said.

Officials said that, for the most part, the nocturnal bird spends its life at sea, but will make nests on isolated islands. There are about 150,000 ʻakēʻakē globally, with 240 pairs in Hawaii.

Researchers are seen looking for ʻakēʻakē and other bird nests in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

National Park Service

Slater and his trainer, Dr. Michelle Reynolds, also found an ʻakēʻakē nest at the U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area in September. The two nests are the only documented ʻakēʻakē burrows in Hawaii.

Officials said the discovered bird nests are not threatened by the recent volcano eruption, and encourage residents to control their pets and use dark-sky friendly lighting to help the birds navigate back home. Bright lights, they said, disorient the birds.