Manu O Ku Rescue: The Day I Rescued A Baby White Tern Chick

Amy holding a Manu O Ku chick in a towel.

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Manu O Ku are those pretty white birds that dance in pairs in Waikiki between the trees at Kapiolani Park. I didn’t know anything about them until a few years ago when I did the East Waikiki Walking Tour with Jay from Hawaii Walks. We explored Waikiki and I saw a different side of this tourist hub that I had never seen before. It’s thanks to this tour that I recognized a Manu O Ku chick that had recently fallen and was easy prey considering its size and white feathers. Here’s how it all happened!

Aloha with love,
Amy

Read More: East Waikiki Walking Tour By Hawaii Walks

About Manu O Ku

Also known as the white tern, fairy tern, angel tern, or white noddy, the Manu O Ku is a Hawaiian native seabird that is mostly visible in the Honolulu area. Surprisingly, Waikiki is a great place to see them, which is where I first learned about these cool birds. The chicks can’t fly for about 45 days and the parents don’t build nests. The eggs are laid directly onto a branch and the chick is left alone while the parents fly out to sea for food. So a strong or sudden wind can knock them right off the branch, leaving the chick in an extremely vulnerable position.

Back view of baby white tern chick.
Despite still being flightless, the chick was feisty and probably had just fallen.

You’ll have the best luck spotting Manu O Ku in Honolulu (Kapiolani Park is a great place to see them). Keep an eye out for the trees with a light blue ribbon around the trunk. Those ribbons let tree cutters know that there’s a baby chick living in that tree. With their white feathers, they’re easy to spot and differentiate from the more common doves, pigeons, and mynah birds in Hawaii.

A baby chick on a branch.
A baby Manu O Ku waiting for its parents (Hawaii Walks tour).

Rescuing the Manu O Ku

My brother has been getting ready to move into a condo and on our way down from the room, I noticed this guy sitting all by himself in the courtyard lawn. There were large trees surrounding the courtyard so he most likely fell off recently since I didn’t see him on my way up. This was a private complex and none of the trees were tagged with the signature light blue ribbon. His parents were nowhere to be found and climbing these tall trees was impossible. In fact, according to the Manu O Ku hotline website, the parents would most likely attack their own young if placed in the wrong spot. So rescuing him was my best option.

Baby chick close up.
Driving to the Hawaiian Humane Society, Richard from the Manu O Ku hotline requested a few pics so they could confirm it was a Manu O Ku.

Connecting with volunteers

This Manu O Ku chick was easy to catch – he could only flap his wings a couple of feet at a time. I wrapped him up in a spare towel and called the Manu O Ku hotline where they have volunteers ready to meet or pick up fallen chicks. I spoke to Richard, who was extremely helpful and I suggested the Hawaiian Humane Society since I was only 5 minutes away. He had a volunteer ready to pick up the chick by the time I had found parking.

Two Manu O Ku flying.
Two adult Manu O Ku dancing in the wind in Waikiki.

When I first tried to hand off the chick, I spoke to a volunteer who said that they don’t take birds. But once I explained that this was a white tern, a Hawaiian native seabird, that I had already called the hotline, etc. they went to the back and brought out the right person who knew what to do. A lady who looked like a tech came out and recognized the bird right away. She had me fill out a paper specifically for lost and found white tern chicks that asked where the bird was found (probably so they can tag the tree later). When I mentioned Richard from the hotline she knew who he was right away so I felt comfortable leaving the chick with them.

My thoughts

I was beaming the rest of the day. It’s a very neat feeling to know that I recognized an uncommon species and was able to help rescue it. Baby chicks are generally ignored and I think this one would have gone unnoticed by most local residents. I only know about white terns because of my blog and there’s a sense of awe that if I hadn’t started this blog, I would have walked right past this bird not realizing its rarity and uniqueness here in the islands.

I hope by writing this I can spread a little awareness and maybe you might be the next rescuer!

Baby chick close up.
Although it was constantly trying to escape and pecking at me, it didn’t hurt at all. Wrapping it in the towel was a good strategy.

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