DOD offers $250k to track, protect seabirds at Air Force radar station on Kauai

Awardee to target and trap nonnative predators of Newell's shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels, including "rats, cats, feral dogs, pigs (where appropriate), and barn owls."
Golden Horseshoe

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just The News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s. 

This week's Golden Horseshoe is awarded to the Department of Defense for spending $257,753 for "seabird monitoring" at an air force installation in Hawaii that will include using night vision, acoustic monitoring devices, thermal and ground cameras.

The DOD's Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District is offering the grant to monitor seabirds at Kokee Air Force Station in Kauai and control and trap predators that are a threat to them, according to the grant documents posted on

Saving the birds has been an ongoing issue for years as many fell victim to accidental injury and subsequent predation during the 2015-16 breeding season. The two types of birds affected were Newell's shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels, which are both protected under the Endangered Species Act. 

"Artificial lighting on the installation was suspected of being the causative agent as it has been shown to disorient these birds, causing them to either collide with the lights or circle the lights until exhaustion," according to the grant funding announcement. "Once grounded, the seabirds are unlikely to become airborne again and are subsequently killed by nonative predators like cats and pigs," according to the grant.  (Page 6)

The Air Force reduced the lighting at the base and also constructed a "walking path light system" to replace perimeter lighting during the months the seabirds are in the area of the base. 

Despite previous actions taken at the base, it's anticipated that four birds a year may still be lost. To "offset" those losses, the Air Force agreed to "fund predator control at existing nearby colonies on Kauai."  (Page 6)

The seabird monitoring/detection and predator trapping will start this April. 

"At minimum, three methods of seabird detection and surveillance shall be implemented from 1 April – 30 December in 2022 and may include but is not limited to the following methods: night vision, thermal, avian radar, acoustic monitoring devices, wire vibration meters, ground cameras and/or installation walking surveys," according to the grant.   Page 7

 The predator control aspect of the grant involves trapping numerous animals, both on and off site to "improve seabird survival." 

"The trapping efforts on Kokee AFS property will attempt to maintain feral cat and rat population levels of zero within the property boundary," according to the funding opportunity announcement. "Trap placement, bait type, and trapping intensity shall be based on the size of the installation." (Page 8)

To improve "seabird colony size and population resilience," the grant recipient must also target and trap animals besides rats and cats off Kokee AFS premises.

"The awardee shall implement predator control actions at or adjacent to known colonies on the island of Kauai in order to improve seabird survival," the grant stipulates. "The species to be targeted shall include rats, cats, feral dogs, pigs (where appropriate), and barn owls." (Page 8)

The closing date for applicants to apply for the grant is March 10.

The DOD did not respond to a request for comment.