Cahows break record with 134 breeding pairs
Bermuda’s cahows notched up a record 134 breeding pairs this year — and the chicks were at healthier weights than 2019.
Jeremy Madeiros, the Government’s principal conservation officer, said that 68 of the endangered birds hatched in 2020.
The number of breeding pairs topped last year’s figure of 131, although that season resulted in 73 fledged chicks.
Mr Madeiros said: “All the chicks this year are at very good or above-average weights, with the exception of possibly two, which may need to be taken into care.”
All chicks last year were of below-average weights and at least 12 needed to be taken into care or given supplemental feeding to help them thrive.
Jean-Pierre Rouja, the Nonsuch Expeditions team leader, said evidence suggested the birds found food closer to the island this year.
Mr Rouja said: “Their foraging flights are shorter and more frequent, resulting in chicks throughout the colony growing faster than usual.
“This has led to some interesting interactions when the parents feeding visits overlap.”
He added that, for the second year, a petrel nicknamed Stormy had attempted to move into one of two “CahowCam” nests, where hidden cameras allows researchers and the public to watch the cahows live on an internet feed.
Mr Rouja said Stormy — which he said was the world’s loneliest and most annoying petrel — had attempted to “cohabitate” with cahows in CahowCam2.
He said: “He has been serenading their chick on a nightly basis.
“This year the chick does not seem to be as patient as the one from last season and has already evicted Stormy a few times.
“Tune in nightly to watch as the saga unfolds.”
Mr Rouja added that the process of monitoring the cahows had been complicated by social-distancing policies, as Mr Madeiros had to go to Nonsuch Island alone.
Mr Rouja has filmed the work remotely to produce video updates and photographs.
The cahow was believed to have been wiped out after British settlement in the 1600s.
However, the species was rediscovered in 1951 in nests on rocky islets in Castle Harbour, which sparked a major conservation effort.
Two colonies were established on Nonsuch Island through a relocation effort and the species colonised Southampton Island on their own in 2013.
The population has risen from just 17 or 18 nesting pairs in 1951.
Nonsuch Expeditions, in partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Department of the Environment and Natural resources, will be offering livestream sessions to teachers and students in Bermuda and overseas over the next few weeks.
Parents, teachers and students can sign up for notifications through the newsletter form on nonsuchisland.com.
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