Protecting birds in Bermuda

Phaethon lepturus, White-tailed tropicbird, nesting

From BirdLife:

Bermuda‘s new National Park extends IBA protection


The largest island in Bermuda’s Castle Harbour, part of Bermuda’s only Important Bird Area (IBA), is to become the Cooper’s Island National Nature Reserve, classed as a National Park.

The entire world population of Endangered Bermuda Petrel or Cahow Pterodroma cahow nests within 1 km of Cooper’s Island, and the southern promontory of the island is the only area from which the Cahow can be easily observed from land. Cooper’s Island is close to the Nonsuch Island Nature Reserve, site of a five-year translocation project to re-establish a breeding population of Cahows beyond the reach of hurricane damage.

The 77 acre (32.2 hectare) Cooper’s Island is also home to a large number of nesting White-tailed Tropicbirds Phaethon lepturus, and with the other Castle Harbour islands plays host to the largest colonies of this species on Bermuda, at over 600 nesting pairs.

“Almost all of the area designated as an IBA is now protected to some extent,” said Jeremy Madeiros of Bermuda’s Department of Conservation Services.

Parts of the island are still used for purposes not strictly compatible with a Nature Reserve, including a radar tower, marine communications antenna and police firing range, but the Department of Conservation is talking to all parties to minimise light levels, guy wires and similar threats to Cahows and other night-flying birds. …

Cooper’s Island is one of the most important sites on Bermuda for neotropical migrants, both passage migrants and overwintering birds. “It is especially important for shorebirds, including the listed Piping Plover Charadrius melodus, Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola and Killdeer Charadrius vociferus, which use the large beach areas, and raptors, especially Osprey Pandion haliaetus and Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus,” said Madeiros. …

The Critically Endangered Bermuda Skink Eumeces longirostris, a ground lizard which lives in Cahow nest burrows, eating insects and parasites and helping to keep the burrows clean, will be re-introduced to Cooper’s Island.

From Wikipedia:

The [Cooper’s] island has been used by many United States Government agencies, having been the property of the US Army, US Air Force and US Navy (which relinquished the island in 1995), as well as previously being occupied by a NASA space tracking station.

Neotropical migratory bird grants link sites and people along the Americas flyway: here.

8 thoughts on “Protecting birds in Bermuda

  1. Apr 17, 12:19 AM EDT

    Bermuda says rare national bird born on reserve

    Associated Press Writer

    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A fuzzy fledgling of Bermuda’s national bird, spotted on a secluded offshore sanctuary this week, may help bring the rare creature back from the brink of extinction.

    The baby bird – found nestled in an artificial concrete burrow on protected Nonsuch Island by scientists – is the first recorded Bermuda petrel chick seen on the 16-acre (6-hectare) site for centuries, Bermuda’s Department of Conservation said Thursday.

    Just 300 of the endangered birds, commonly known as Cahows, exist in and around Bermuda. They breed nowhere else in the world.

    Jeremy Madeiros, the conservation officer who has been overseeing efforts to revive the bird species for nine years, could barely contain his relief that mating had been successful.

    “I’m just beyond thrilled,” Madeiros said during a phone interview on Thursday. “To have a nesting pair produce a chick so soon is just such a big surprise.”

    The Cahow lives almost all of its life out on the open ocean, hunting squid, krill and anchovies in the Gulf Stream and beyond, he said. It returns to its Bermuda home only to mate, and no invasive predators are left there to threaten the species.

    The adult bird, with its blackish-grey head, white belly and eerie, moaning cry, was once very common in Bermuda, numbering about a million before Spanish explorers discovered the islands in the early 1500s.

    But pigs brought to Bermuda by Spanish sailors and rats, cats and dogs brought by early British settlers devastated the population, along with hunting by settlers. The bird was thought to be extinct by the 1620s, yet a few breeding pairs were found nesting on craggy islands off the British Atlantic territory’s east end in 1951.

    Retired conservation officer David Wingate helped create the Nonsuch reserve as a safe breeding ground for the Cahow. About two miles off Bermuda’s main island, it is now a living museum of flora and fauna found by Bermuda’s first settlers 400 years ago.

    Wingate said he could “not think of a more perfect success story” to commemorate the settlement’s 400th anniversary than this chick’s hatching about a month ago.

    The little bird was nicknamed “Somers” in honor of Sir George Somers, whose shipwreck marked the beginning of Bermuda’s permanent settlement. It is expected to leave Nonsuch within nine weeks and will then spend three to four years at sea before returning to the exact spot from where it left to select a mate and build a nest.

    “I’m hopeful that next year we will see more chicks born on Nonsuch,” Madeiros said. “We will then truly have secured a major victory in ensuring the future survival of this most extraordinary bird.”


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