Bermuda Petrel (Pterodroma cahow)

Taxonomy

Monotypic. Thought to be more closely related to Fea's Petrel than Black-capped Petrel.

Known as the Cahow in Bermuda. Was once a relatively numerous breeder on Bermuda (estiimated 500,000 birds), however, the species was nearly driven to extinction by the introduction of mammals (pigs, dogs, cats and rats) during the 1500 and 1600's. The species had essentially vanished by 1620. The type specimen taken by Louis Mowbray in 1906 and breeding rediscovered in 1951. The species is making a slow but steady come-back under the watchful eye of the David Wingate and the Berumda Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Parks. The total world population was estimated at less than 200 individuals in 1996 and threats to further growth of the population remain.

Identification

Still poorly known. See Wingate et al. (1998) for an excellent treatment.
 

Where and When

Nesting is restricted to some small islets on the Island of Bermuda located in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, some 650 miles east of North Carolina. Rarely seen in waters surrounding Bermuda and feeding areas poorly known. There are now a handful of records from the Gulf Stream off North Carolina (reviewed in Wingate et al., 1998). When the island was first settled, Bermuda Petrels were widespread - a result of the lack of mammalian preditors including humans. Bones have been found on Crooked Island in the Bahamas suggesting the species may once Crooked Island, Bahamas have been a more widespread breeder. Today, nesting is confined to four of the smallest islets in Castle Harbour, east Bermuda. The breeding season runs from late October to mid-June. Eggs are laid in January, hatch in late February and early March, and the chicks fledge in late May-early June.

The Bermuda Petrel (Cahow) Conservation Program monitors the breeding islets to protect against human disturbance or colonization by predators and competitor species (principally the White-tailed Tropic bird). In addition the program is working to expand the number of available nesting sites using artificial burrows condition larger islands (such as Nonsuch Island) with adequate soil coverage for burrowing to allow colonization. For more news and information contact: David B Wingate, President of Bermuda Audubon, and Conservation Officer of Bermuda Parks. Address: Bermuda Audubon Society, The Bermuda Islands, P.O. Box HM 1328, Hamilton HM FX, Bermuda, Phone: (441) 236-7410, E-mail: audubon@ibl.bm

Photographs on the web

Brian Patteson has posted a series of fascinating images on his web site. Several different(?) individuals are shown in flight, both from May (1996 and 1998), seen in the Gulf Stream off North Carolina. In addition, there is a photo of David Wingate standing next to a nesting burrow, showing the man-made entrances.
 

Literature

Beebe, W. (1935) Rediscovery of the Bermuda Cahow. Bull. NY Zoo. Soc. 38: p187-190.

Wingate, D.B., Hass, T., Brinkley, E.S., and Patteson, J.B. (1998) Identification of Bermuda Petrel. Birding 30: p18-36.


Copyright © 2003 All rights reserved Angus Wilson
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