WatchList Species Account
for Bermuda Petrel
the list as a Red List Species
Photo: © Jeremy
Bermuda’s only endemic breeding species,
the Bermuda Petrel was once abundant throughout the main island
and the smaller satellite islands but exploitation for food
by the early settlers, burning and deforestation and the introduction
of pigs, rats, cats and dogs soon eliminated most of its population.
For 300 years it was thought extinct but a specimen was found
in 1935 and 18 pairs were rediscovered in 1951 nesting on
rocky islands in Castle Harbor totalling only around 2.5 acres in size.
Under the direction of David B. Wingate,
who has worked on the species for over 30 years and has saved
it from extinction, intensive management had by the 1990s
increased its numbers at its breeding site to 53 pairs; the
total population is estimated to be around 180 individuals.
It formerly nested in soil burrows but this habitat is not
available on its current and suboptimal sites, where it nests
in limestone crevices and artificial burrows.
Among the threats to the species are competition
for nest sites with the White-tailed Tropicbird and light
pollution from the nearby airport and a U.S. Naval Air Station,
which negatively impacted nocturnal courtship; the lights
at the latter are now turned off during the breeding season.
There is a threat of sea-level rise and increased storm activity.
In recent years there have been several instances of burrows
being flooded, something which had not happened in the previous
25 years. Construction of a sea-wall on one islet has prevented
flooding and destruction of nests there. In addition contaminants
may result in lowered nesting success.
There is an active program to provide artificial
burrows that exclude tropicbirds; rats are periodically removed
from the islets. There are plans to establish a colony on
Nonsuch Island, which could accommodate 1,000 pairs. During
the nonbreeding season it apparently wanders to the offshore
Atlantic waters of the southeastern U.S.