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Nonsuch cahow population hits record high

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Conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros inspects a young cahow chick on Nonsuch Island (File photograph)

Bermuda’s national bird, once thought to be extinct, has set another record on its road to recovery.

Cahow chicks are now fledging on their island refuge at Castle Harbour – meaning they will set off on their first flights out to sea from now until mid-June, having fattened up after hatching in February and March.

Once again, the public will be able to tune in to observe the cahows via hidden cameras with an eye on their subterranean nests.

Jeremy Madeiros, principal conservationist for the cahow recovery project, said the birds had flourished from just 18 breeding pairs 60 years ago to a record 155 pairs, up from 143 last year.

The tally of 77 cahow chicks is another 2022 record, after 73 were recorded in 2019.

Once cahows fledge from Nonsuch Island, it is believed they will not touch solid ground again for three to five years, feeding across the North Atlantic on squid, small fish, and crustaceans, and sleeping on the wing.

Mr Madeiros said the oldest chicks have started emerging at night from their burrows to exercise their flight muscles.

The birds will also imprint on the area around their nest before setting off for the open ocean on their first flight.

Mr Madeiros said the imprinting was essential for the cahows’ return in several years.

Nonsuch and its neighbouring islands and rocks total less than 22 acres, and are the only place in the world where the cahow nests.

The buried CahowCam allows the public to watch the hatching and early life of the chicks without disturbing the underground nests.

In another first this year, a fledgling will be fitted with a global location sensor to track its journey.

A chick named Atlas by Mr Madeiros’s daughter, Elizabeth, was fitted with an identification band and a GLS tag on May 18.

Atlas is soon to fledge, and the bird’s activities can be watched via the camera at the Nonsuch Expeditions site here.

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Published May 28, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated May 28, 2022 at 11:01 am)

Nonsuch cahow population hits record high

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