Cahow chick takes centre stage
Viewers around the world watched a critically endangered cahow chick hatch in Bermuda at the weekend.
Nonsuch Expedition’s CahowCam project broadcast a hatching live from Nonsuch Island on Friday night — the eighth year cameras have been used to stream the appearance of new chicks.
Jeremy Madeiros, the principal conservation officer at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the first chicks of the cahow season usually hatched between February 26 and 28.
Mr Madeiros added: “Sure enough, in the early morning hours of February 28 an eagle-eyed viewer spotted the first signs of a pip, or small hole in the shell of the egg in the CahowCam 1 nest on Nonsuch Island, which is the first sign that a chick is beginning the often lengthy process of breaking out of the eggshell.
“By 3pm that afternoon, the pip was getting larger and the chick could easily be heard cheeping from inside the egg.”
He said the chick finally emerged at around midnight.
Mr Madeiros said: “By 11.18pm that evening, the egg was splitting apart across the top, and by 11.40pm the chick was clearly emerging.
“At 11.51pm, the chick was mostly out of the egg, but still wearing the shell on its posterior like a diaper. The chick then fully emerged shortly after.
“The adult bird incubating the egg during the hatching then gently preened the chick and brooded it until its down had dried out and the chick assumed its normal ‘fluffy’ appearance.”
Mr Madeiros said four chicks had hatched in burrows around Nonsuch Island by Saturday and that the CahowCam chick had already been fed by its father.
He added that the CahowCam showed the father leaving the chick at about 4am on Sunday, with the mother returning to the burrow just before 7pm that day.
Mr Madeiros said: “We were relieved to see the mother begin bonding immediately, preening and feeding the chick and then staying over in the nest with it the rest of the night and the following day.
“We hope to get out again today as soon as the current strong winds subside to see if additional chicks have hatched on the island.”
Cahows, endemic seabirds also known as the Bermuda petrel, were believed to have been wiped out by early colonists in the 1620s.
The species was rediscovered in 1951 when 18 nesting pairs were discovered on rocky islets in Castle Harbour.
The population has grown since then because of an “intensive management programme”.
There are now 131 nesting pairs and the number of chicks raised every year has risen from seven or eight in 1962 to 73 last year.
CahowCam 1, introduced in 2013, has offered the public a glimpse into the lives of the endangered birds through a hidden camera in burrow 831.
More than 20 million minutes of CahowCam footage have been watched over the last three years by scientists, students and followers from around the world through a partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
To watch the live stream, visit www.nonsuchisland.com.
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