'Duck Island' fowl declining


POSTED: Saturday, July 04, 2009

Question: Do you know what happened to the ducks on “;duck island”; in Hawaii Kai near the Hawaii Kai Town Center? I think what started out to be a neat thing for kids feeding the ducks eventually became a health problem. Recently, in upper Nuuanu, ducks have been coming down Nuuanu Stream, occasionally wandering into back yards because residents are feeding them. Could this become a problem, from the perspective of health and sanitation? Is it such a good idea to encourage wild ducks to get free handouts rather than learn how to forage naturally?

Answer: Many of the Hawaii Kai ducks have been relocated to a farm in Waimanalo and one in Hawaii Kai.

That's because their numbers exploded and there were problems with sanitation and safety.

“;We really love them, but when we get complaints that they're going into people's swimming pools and things like that, it became little bit of a problem. We did relocate them, but not any this year,”; said Beverly Liddle, manager of the Hawaii Kai Marina.

She also said they corralled the ducks to be picked up by the farmers, because they didn't want the ducks to be euthanized: “;We're really humane about the ducks.”;

Liddle thinks ducks can still be found in Paiko Lagoon, but she has noticed their numbers have dwindled.

“;I did see a bunch of babies (in May) during spring, (but) their survival rate is not that great,”; she said.

Marina staff used to feed the ducks “;years ago, to keep them in the lower marina—to keep them from migrating out to other parts of the marina,”; she said.

However, a big problem was people feeding them elsewhere. So, the ducks “;were crossing the street to go over to what we call our yacht club site, and people were feeding them and it was causing accidents,”; she said.

The ducks were being run over by motorists as they crossed the streets, and it was dangerous for motorists trying to avoid them (see “;Kokua Line,”; Oct. 31, 2005).

“;That's what started the relocation,”; Liddle said.

Feeding the ducks also led to unsanitary conditions.

Ducks, in fact, “;are extremely dirty,”; said David Smith, Oahu district manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Forestry and Wildlife Division.

They poop all over the place, with the larger Muscovy ducks leaving behind “;pretty big piles”; of feces, he said.

Smith noted that “;almost all nuisance wildlife issues are related to feeding.”;

“;If you don't feed (wild) animals, they usually will establish a reasonable level that is not a nuisance level,”; he said. “;If you start feeding them, then they breed and congregate and start to become a nuisance.”;

Smith said he hasn't heard about problems with ducks in Nuuanu, but has heard about them in Kailua, in the Hamakua Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary and Oneawa Canal.

KGMB-TV reported last year some area residents were upset to discover workers contracted by DLNR had killed a bunch of ducks in Hamakua Marsh as part of an effort to get rid of non-native ducks and protect endangered native birds.

Smith says people also go through the area periodically to capture ducks. He suspects they end up on the dinner table.

Capturing and killing the ducks does not violate any law because DLNR does not require any permit to capture or kill such ducks.

It's debatable whether they are really “;wild,”; Smith said.

DLNR considers them to be a domesticated species “;not banded or marked in any way”; or really living in the wild because they're often found in urban areas where people are feeding them regularly.

“;Pretty much anybody can take them; they're not legally owned by anybody.”;

Question: About 11 or so weeks ago, I called Aiea Recreation Center to inform them that two lights were out on the tennis courts. Then about four weeks ago, I called because another light had gone out. To date, the staff has no idea when or how much longer it's going to take to replace the lamps. Can you find out?

Answer: In January (see “;Kokua Line,”; Jan. 26), someone complained about the lights there being out for several weeks.

Repairs were made and completed Feb. 4, said Lester Chang, director of the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

The latest problem “;is a new situation,”; although the cause of the outages hasn't yet been determined. Work orders have been issued, and Chang said repairs should be completed in about two weeks.