Endangered Bermuda Petrel Lays an Egg

Watch One of the World’s Most Stored Seabirds Come Back from Near Extinction

Bermuda Petrels (Cahows) are faithful partners, generally pairing up with the same mate for life, which may be over 30 years. This pair has been together since 2009. (Photo credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology @BermudaCahowCam)
Bermuda Petrels (Cahows) are faithful partners, generally pairing up with the same mate for life, which may be over 30 years. This pair has been together since 2009. (Photo credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology @BermudaCahowCam)

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cams captured a female Bermuda Petrel returning from the sea and laying an egg in her burrow.

Cornell’s cams documented the Bermuda Petrel when she returned to the nesting burrow on Nonsuch Island, Bermuda to lay a single egg!

Why is this single egg so crucial to those of us who love birds?

Bermuda Petrel on Endangered Species List

The Bermuda petrel, commonly known in Bermuda as the Cahow (Pterodroma cahow), is the national bird of Bermuda.

And this bird is on the endangered species list.

It’s the second rarest seabird on the planet and a symbol of hope for nature conservation.

The total number of Bermuda petrels now existing in the world is approximately 335 (including immature birds too young to breed). There are 196 mature birds.

Bermuda Petrel Vanished for 300 Years

Considered the world’s most storied seabird, the bird was little more than legend until its rediscovery and description in the twentieth century.

More than 300 years after it had vanished from human experience.

Bermuda petrels were thought to be extinct for 330 years (1620 – 1951) making them a “Lazarus species.”

A Bermuda Petrel sits on its nest in one of the few natural burrows on the islets. Each male incubates a single egg. (Photo credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Mark Reaves)
A Bermuda Petrel sits on its nest in one of the few natural burrows on the islets. Each male incubates a single egg. (Photo credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Mark Reaves)

History of the Bird’s Extinction

When Cristóbal Colón sailed past Bermuda in 1492, an estimated half million pairs of Bermuda Petrel nested throughout the Bermuda archipelago.

Within a few decades, the birds had become scarce, and their nesting limited to remote cliffs and offshore islets.

The advent of permanent English colonists in the early 1600s, brought rats, cats, hogs, and dogs and had eliminated most petrels nesting on the main islands.

Continued human exploitation of the petrels for food also took a heavy toll on the species.

In 1614, rats from a captured Spanish ship transporting grain devoured much of the settlers’ crops and provisions.

Bermuda’s governor, Richard Moore, evacuated the colonists to Cooper’s Island, which still had abundant bird resources (and sea turtles), so that they might avoid starvation.

Many of the breeding petrels there were consumed.

During the next breeding season, the birds were so rarely encountered that the islands’ new governor, Daniel Tucker, urged public restraint in eating the petrels.

Know as the “Proclamation gainst the spoyle and havocke of the cahowes.”

But by 1620, the bird was no longer seen and was presumed extinct.

READ: Kakapo Comeback

Once presumed extinct, Bermuda Petrels were rediscovered in 1951, nesting on a group of islets. (Photo credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Mark Reaves)
Once presumed extinct, Bermuda Petrels were rediscovered in 1951, nesting on a group of islets. (Photo credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Mark Reaves)

Bermuda Petrel Rediscovered

In January 1951, a scientific expedition was organized to search for the bird, led by Louis S. Mowbray (son of the 1906 discoverer) and by Robert Cushman Murphy and his wife, Grace E. B. Murphy.

During a careful survey of the islets around Castle Harbor, they found seven nesting pairs of Bermuda Petrel, and the news of the discovery quickly spread around the world through the news media, with rare fanfare, at least for a seabird.

Watch the Bermuda Petrels on Cornell’s Bid Cams

Tune into Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bermuda Petrels Bird Cam as they broadcast the nesting season live on Bird Cams and learn what to watch for in the coming days.

Cheer on this endangered birds as they indeed are a symbol of hope for nature conservation.

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