New island home for Cahow chicks but will they find their way back?Ten Cahow chicks have been translocated to Bermuda`s Nonsuch Island, after an absence of almost 350 years. It is hoped that Nonsuch will provide a relatively safe haven for the endangered seabird, following the removal of introduced, invasive mammals such as rats. The return of Cahows to the island could also aid the growth of native plants, through the fertilising effect of the birds` guano.
The Cahow or Bermuda Petrel Pterodroma cahow is classified as Endangered. The total world population stood at just 180 birds in 1997. Remarkably the species was considered extinct until 1951 when 18 pairs were discovered breeding on rocky islets off Castle Harbour at the east of the island.
A number of new concrete nesting burrows have been put in place on Nonsuch, following September 2003`s Hurricane Fabian which destroyed many nesting sites on neighbouring rocky islets. Fortunately the Cahows were at sea and not breeding when Fabian hit.We had to rebuild or replace the Cahow nests after massive chunks of the islands were lost during the storm Jeremy Madeiros, Bermuda Department of Conservation Services.
A lack of safe nesting sites is a major problem for the species. The establishment of a secure colony on Nonsuch, which as well as fewer predators is also more protected from winds and rising sea levels, would be a very positive development for the Cahow`s long-term future. However, successfully translocating chicks is a precise art. Once the chicks fledge it is thought they memorise the exact position of their nesting burrow, probably using the stars for navigation. If they survive the rigours of their early years, the chicks then return to the vicinity of their ancestral burrows when they are ready to breed.
However, this won`t take place for around five years, so a long wait now ensues to see whether the translocation has been a success?
4th July 2014