Seabird lays first egg in Bermuda in almost 170 years

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Aug 21, CMC – A seabird, once common in Bermuda, has nested here for the first time in nearly 170 years, an environmental group said on Wednesday.

The Bermuda Audubon Society said a pair of roseate terns built a nest on a small nature reserve islet in the Hamilton Harbour and Great Sound area and hatched a single egg last month.

“Out of concern for the safety of the birds and the egg and chick, it was decided to keep the exciting news quiet until the chick had fledged, “said former government conservation officer, Dr David Wingate.

Wingate said the chick hatched on July 24 and was double-banded and DNA tested. He said it had now fledged and would likely head south to spend the winter with its parents off the east coast of Brazil.

“It is highly likely that the same pair will return to nest again next year, but the chick, which we nicknamed Phoenix, will take at least three years to mature,” said Wingate, who spotted the birds in May.

The roseate tern was once common in Bermuda, but was wiped out by scientific collectors and bird shooters in the 1800s. The last nests were reported on Gurnett Rock at the entrance to Castle Harbour in the east end in the 1840s.

Bermuda still has a small population of the common tern but numbers have suffered a major decline because of hurricanes during the nesting season.

“One encouraging fact about the roseate tern recolonisation is that they are much better adapted than the common terns to survive hurricanes and largely replace the latter in the hurricane belt, notably in the Bahamas and the Antilles,” Wingate said.

He said the roseate tern was more common in Bermuda in the 19th century than the common tern, before they were collected and hunted to extinction on the island.

Wingate said a single roseate tern joined the common tern colony on the island over the last two years and began courting.

“This year that bird brought a mate of its own species with it and the rest is history,” he added.

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