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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