Elusive bird photographed in the middle of Mauna Loa eruption

Officials say that a rare, endangered bird first spotted in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park just a month before the eruption of the Mauna Loavolcano should be safe from the eruption — but is facing other threats to its well-being.

According to reporting from the Sacramento Bee and other outlets, researchers working in the park had known that an Ê»akÄ“Ê»akÄ“ — or band-rumped storm petrel — was living in the park since the 1990s . But until earlier this winter, they’d never actually seen one.

That changed when a dog called Slater of the Hawai’i Detector Dogs sniffed out the burrow where the small fledgling was living. Biologists set up a camera in the hopes of capturing footage of the nocturnal seabird, which they did just weeks before Mauna Loa erupted.

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According to the National Park Service, the Ê»akÄ“Ê»akÄ“ was not in danger from the eruption due to its protected location inside the park. There are, however, threats to its well-being that include “predation by non-native barn owls, cats and mongoose, and disorientation from artificial lights.”

Keeping skies dark and household pets under control are two of the best ways to protect the birds, which mainly lives at sea and on remote islands and leaves very little visual evidence of its burrows. Dark skies help the birds navigate, while bright lights can have the opposite effect.

The ʻakēʻakē are tiny birds, with the adults reportedly weighing just about as much as a golf ball. According to the American Bird Conservancy, the birds are typically black with a white band around its tail.

There are roughly 150,000 Ê»akÄ“Ê»akÄ“ in the world, with just 240 pairs located in Hawai’i. Researchers have located just two specific locations where the bird lives in Hawai’i — the burrow at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and a nest at the U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area.