Bermuda’s only endemic breeding species, this nocturnal, ground-nesting seabird once numbered more than half a million individuals. Its folk name, Cahow, refers to the bird’s eerie calls.
Human settlement in the early 1600s brought with it deforestation, exploitation of the bird as food, and introduced pigs, rats, cats and dogs, all of which soon decimated its population.
For 300 years the petrel was considered extinct, but a dead specimen was found in 1935, and 18 nesting pairs were rediscovered in 1951. Thanks to intensive conservation management, the population had increased to 53 breeding pairs by the 1990s.
A major threat to the species continues to be lack of suitable breeding habitat. Hurricanes can flood nest burrows and erode suitable nesting areas, and sea-level rise resulting from climate change will likely exacerbate these impacts. Competition for nest sites with White-tailed Tropicbirds and rodent predation also lower nesting success.
An intensive Cahow Recovery Program was begun in 1961, and is today managed by the Bermuda Department of Conservation Services. The 2011-2012 nesting season saw a record number of 56 chicks successfully fledging. This year the program reached a critical milestone—101 nesting pairs of petrels.
Read more about the conservation successes and challenges remaining for the Cahow.