The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has launched an investigation into the nests, as well as destroyed nests at Ka'ena Point Natural Area Reserve, which is situated on the northwestern tip of O'ahu, according to a MauiNow.com report.
A citizen stumbled across the dead birds earlier this week and called it in to the state, which sent officers and local experts to investigate.
The loss of any amount of nests is a significant blow to the colony at Ka'ena, of which there are just 75 active nests. Officials were dismayed to find that 15 had been destroyed with smashed or missing eggs, and 12 of the adults that had been at the nests were missing, with three birds found. Someone also appeared to have taken expensive equipment worth $3,100 used to monitor the birds.
DLNR is now working with local wildlife and police authorities to figure out who or what the culprit is. It will require a necropsy of the three adult birds to figure out what the cause of death is. Killing the birds would be a crime, as they are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List.
Police are asking that anyone who noticed any persons or vehicles in the Ka'ena area between Sunday evening and Monday morning to contact them. Penalties can be up to $15,000 per incident and a year in jail at the federal level, and $10,000 per incident and $5,000 per animal at the state level.