CahowCam 1 egg has failed, giving much needed break to the parents.

Jeremy explains how the failure of the CahowCam 1 egg provides a much needed break for the parents that have raised a chick each of the past 5 years.

So far, the 2019 Cahow nesting season looks like it is a fairly successful one, with over 60 chicks now confirmed as having hatched, with the final number waiting for the current high winds and rain to abate so further nest checks can take place on the smaller nesting islets. 

On Nonsuch Island, it looks like a total of 12 chicks have now hatched, including the first 2 chicks ever at the new, 2nd translocation colony site. With the CahowCam nests, the recently installed "CahowCam 2" camera recorded the successful hatching of its chick on the night of 9th March. This chick seems to be getting regular feeding visits by the parent birds and is gaining weight steadily.

However, at the "CahowCam1" nest, as the hatching window passed it became clear that the egg had failed and was not going to hatch. This pair has been unusually successful, raising chicks for 5 consecutive years in a row, whereas Cahow pairs are usually only successful every other year or at best 2 years out of 3. Usually, when an egg fails, the parents will faithfully continue to try and incubate it for at least another 2 or 3 weeks, which has been the case with this pair. Typically, once a pair finally accepts that an egg will not hatch, they often will kick the egg out of the nest or, alternatively, will partly or completely bury it with nest material. This is what has happened last night (20/21 March), when the adult brought large amount of additional nest material in, ultimately completely burying the egg. This is the first time we have observed this on the CahowCam, due to the pair being successful every previous year since the camera was installed! This points to the value of these burrow cams, that even when failure inevitably occurs, that we can still gain previously unknown insights and observations that were not possible before. The adults may continue to visit the failed nest on & off until around the beginning of April, then will depart for their mid-Atlantic summer habitat, where they will feed, regain their strength, and prepare for the start of the next breeding season in November.

All the best, Jeremy

Jeremy Madeiros Senior Conservation Officer (Terrestrial) Dept. of Environment and Natural Resource

Hello World! 2019 CahowCam Chick hatches LIVE on Camera

At approximately 10:30pm on Saturday night, viewers from around the world watched as the Cahow egg in Burrow #832 began to hatch. Watch CahowCam LIVE Now

Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader and CahowCam developer Jean-Pierre Rouja."The first hint that something was going on was a broken egg shell. Then, around 11:30pm, the chick’s head first appeared from under its parent. Progressively, throughout the night, more and more of it was revealed." 

Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer Jeremy Madeiros“We were very happy to see the chick hatching in the 2ndCahowCam nest, and a bit surprised as I was not really expecting hatching to occur for several days yet. When I returned to my records, I could see the adult had returned during a stormy period in January when I had not been able to visit Nonsuch, so the egg was laid at the beginning of this period, not the end as thought. This brings the number of Cahow chicks so far confirmed as hatching on Nonsuch to 9, with adults in 4 nests still incubating eggs. The total number of chicks confirmed on all nesting islands now is over 45, with more nest checks scheduled over the next week, weather permitting.”


The CahowCam Project is now in its seventh season broadcasting LIVE from Nonsuch Island, and the third season in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (with whom over 15 million minutes of CahowCam video were watched over the past two years). 

The new CahowCam 2 had just been installed in Burrow #832 only a few days prior to the hatching. It's one of several that the team is installing this season to give researchers, students, and viewers around the world fascinating insights into the nesting activities of the second rarest seabird on the planet. It is located alongside burrow #831 from which the current CahowCam continues to stream as it has for the past five years. Historically, Burrow #832 hosted the Camera for the first two CahowCam seasons (2013-2014) during which the same pair successfully reared chicks named “Backson” and “Lightning”. 

The Minister of Home Affairs the Hon. Walter Roban: "I am so pleased to hear of another successful hatching at Nonsuch Island. I want to give a huge congratulations to the staff of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources who work tirelessly - sacrificing their weekends and evenings - to help bring our national bird back from the brink of extinction. Thank you also to Nonsuch Expeditions for enabling these incredible moments to be captured on camera and shared with a worldwide audience."

"Going forward we plan to be LIVE streaming both cameras in parallel to allow researchers and our followers to observe the similarities and differences in behaviors between the two pairs' nesting seasons," said J-P Rouja. “As we were going LIVE with this new camera during the most sensitive part of the nesting season (egg incubation), it was important to install the camera in the least disruptive way possible. Accordingly, we have custom-built new infrared lights to work with our new HD camera to fit in the pre-existing four-inch PVC pipe that remained in place from the original CahowCam setup in this same nest in 2013/14. This also brings us back to the traditional Top Down view that we used for first few CahowCam seasons, giving us an alternate wider view of the entire nest chamber from above. “

Jeremy Madeiros: “This Season we are working with international researchers to track the Cahow’s foraging expeditions using new nano-gps tags to shed light on where they are finding their food in the Sargasso Sea and beyond. In addition, there is concern that new proposals to carry out oil and gas exploration on the Continental Shelves may present a potential threat to the Cahow and many other seabirds, as previous geolocator tagging indicated that Cahows visit these areas regularly for foraging.… In parallel we are doing blood work to identify contaminants that may be exposed to through their food, all of which will assist with the ongoing management of the species.”

JP Rouja: “We archive each season in HD in its entirety, recording 24/7 for 7  months  which we will combine with the maps generated by the Geo tags and the LIVE footage for the STEAM curriculum that we are developing with Cornell. This will be used Internationally in K-12 through University, and adapted locally for public and private schools where it is perfect for localizing and creating cross-curricular lessons that will better engage our students.”

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams Project Leader Charles Eldermire: "I continue to be amazed at how close these rare petrels are to the technology and infrastructure that enables us to share their lives with the world. It's really a testimony to both the ongoing efforts of Jeremy and the Bermuda Government as well as the investment from Nonsuch Expeditions that our far-flung audience can now observe two sets of petrels."

David Freestone, Executive Secretary, Sargasso Sea Commission:“The Sargasso Sea Commission is convening a workshop this week in Bermuda and one of the issues being looked at is the connectivity between the Sargasso Sea, Bermuda and the wider Atlantic ocean system. The cahow, is an iconic creature that symbolizes the connectivity between Bermuda and the open ocean - particularly the Sargasso Sea and now this research will provide data to back this up. Its recovery is a great tribute to the dedicated conservation work of Bermudians which is being showcased to the world…”

 John W. Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is thrilled to partner with Nonsuch Expeditions in helping share with the world the intimate biology of these extraordinarily rare petrels, and the conservation success story they represent. We join hundreds of thousands of viewers in hoping that this new chick survives to fledging, and eventually returns to breed on Nonsuch Island.”

Time-lapse & report from 2018 CahowCam season

Click above to view Time-lapse of 2018 CahowCam season

Charles Eldermire | Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

 "We've been excited to watch the Cahow Cam community's response over the last two years to watching this uber-rare subterranean seabird's breeding attempts. Hundreds of thousands of viewers have spent over 15 million minutes watching the young cahow transform into a sleek juvenile. Beyond just watching, they've also shared their observations on social media, recruited new viewers into the fold, and been ambassadors for raising awareness of the tenuous success of the cahow recovery effort. We're looking forward to learning more together in 2019!"

J-P Rouja | Nonsuch Expeditions Team Leader:

This is the 6th Season that under our ongoing Nonsuch Expeditions project we have been streaming LIVE from the underground nesting burrows in Translocation Colony "A" on Nonsuch Island in Bermuda. The K-12 and Cambridge curriculum that we are developing with Cornell will further extend our reach into classrooms in Bermuda and  around the world! To obtain resources, teachers should contact us or signup for our Newsletter selecting the educator options. 

Please see the 2018 report below from Jeremy Madeiros, Chief Terrestrial Conservation Officer:

2018 Sees Record-breaking Cahow Nesting Season

Bermuda’s National Bird, the endemic and critically endangered Bermuda petrel, or Cahow (Pterodroma cahow) has one of the most interesting stories to be found in conservation and species recovery work. After being thought extinct for over 300 years, a small number of breeding pairs were re-discovered nesting on several small, rocky islets off the east end of Bermuda in 1951. A Recovery program for the species began by the early 1960s, when there were only 18 breeding pairs, producing a combined total of only 7 or 8 chicks annually. Since then, intensive management work has enabled the cahow population to begin a slow, but accelerating recovery, with the number of breeding pairs increasing to 55 by 2000 and exceeding 100 by 2012.

There were early indications that the 2018 Cahow breeding season was going to be another record-breaking one, with both adult birds and chicks being consistently recorded at higher than average weights. The adults were evidently exploiting food sources, most likely far to the north of the Gulf Stream, using their exceptional flying ability. (Geolocator studies in 2009-2012 revealed that Cahows regularly carry out foraging trips of 1,800 to over 4,000 miles over 3 to 7 days – just to feed the chick once!)

This resulted in healthy adult birds and well-fed chicks, with almost no malnourished fledglings that needed to be taken into care and given supplemental feeding.

The level of new nest prospecting by young adult birds just reaching maturity was also exceptionally high, reflecting the increasing number of fledglings produced annually by the nesting population.


As a result, it looked like 2018 would exceed 2017’s record of 117 breeding pairs and 61 successfully fledged chicks, and by the end of January, a total of 124 breeding pairs had been confirmed as laying eggs. During January and February, Carla Marquardt volunteered to candle all accessible eggs during my routine band checks and weighing of incubating adult Cahows, when adults are briefly removed from burrows for identification and a check of body condition. Candling is a technique used to determine if an egg is fertile and to follow development of the embryo inside the eggshell, proving to be of such value that it will be incorporated into future management of the species.

The chicks hatched in late February and early March and then spent three months developing inside their underground burrows, being supplied by the adults with squid, fish and shrimp-like crustaceans. By the time the last chick flew out to sea on 28th June, it was confirmed that 71 chicks had successfully fledged, breaking last year’s record number by 10!

The two new nesting colonies on Nonsuch Island, established by translocating chicks from the original, smaller nesting islets during 2004-2008 and 2013-2017 now both have breeding Cahow populations, with a total of 18 breeding pairs. These produced a record number (for Nonsuch) of 13 fledged chicks, including “Sunny”, 2018’s “CahowCam” chick, the hatching, development and fledging of which was again live-streamed by infra-red video over J. P. Rouja’s “Nonsuch Expeditions” website and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cams project, enabling viewers in over 100 countries to follow the story of “Sunny’.

In addition, 2018 saw the first two breeding pairs establish at the second, “B” translocation colony on Nonsuch. One of these pairs consisted of a male bird translocated as a chick to the “B” site in 2014, with the female being “Backson”, the first ‘cahow-Cam” chick which fledged from the “A” site in 2013. Five additional pairs also were prospecting nest burrows at both sites during the season, and hopefully will lay their first eggs as breeding pairs next year.

It appears that the Cahow has now reached a point in which its population recovery has accelerated over the last few years. This is due to the intensive management programme, which has been able to control or reduce most of the ongoing threats facing the species, coupled with the re-introduction of the Cahow to a larger, managed habitat on Nonsuch, with room for population growth without the annual threat of hurricane damage or destruction of the nest burrows.

It should be noted, however, that 124 pairs are still a tiny overall population, and the cahow remains one of the rarest seabirds on the planet. The long-term objective of the Recovery Program is increasing the Cahow population to a minimum of 1000 breeding pairs, which will be needed to de-list the species from “Critically Endangered” to “Threatened”. We still obviously have some way to go, but the future looks increasingly positive for this symbol of Bermuda’s Natural Heritage.

Jeremy Madeiros | Senior Terrestrial Conservation Officer | Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources | Bermuda Government

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