Rare sightings: A Spectacular Week for the Seabird Team

This turned out to be a spectacular week for the seabird team. We logged 1101 seabirds of 22 species, about a 30% drop in diversity from last week, but several of these were new for AMAPPS 2014. Without question, the highlight this week occurred during our transits across Georges Canyon, at the far eastern edge of Georges Bank. Here we found two seabirds, one rarely seen in Canada — a Black-capped Petrel—and the other, a Bermuda Petrel – is hardly seen anywhere. The Bermuda Petrel (IUCN status: Endangered) wandered down the starboard side and sent shock waves across the flying bridge.

The Bermuda petrel is commonly known as the cahow, a name  derived from its  cries. Thought to be extinct for more than 300 years, it is the national bird of Bermuda.  Photo credit:Mike Force

The Bermuda petrel is commonly known in Bermuda as the cahow, a name derived from its cries. Thought to be extinct for more than 300 years, this nocturnal  ground-nesting seabird  is the national bird of Bermuda. Photo credit: Mike Force, NEFSC/NOAA

This species, which nests only on isolated rocks and islets off Bermuda, was presumed extinct in 1620. For 300 years that certainly seemed to be the case until a specimen, found in 1906, was finally identified 10 years later. When breeding was confirmed, in 1951, there were an estimated 17 or 18 breeding pairs, which, through intensive conservation and translocation efforts, has increased to about 103 breeding pairs. The world population is currently estimated to be 300-350 birds, perhaps as high as 500.

Finding one in the vast expanse of the north Atlantic is akin to winning the lottery. Our sighting represents perhaps the first or second confirmed sighting for Canada. Fortunately, we were able to get a few poor quality photos to confirm the identity. It was simply remarkable. We can all go home now!

Michael Force and Nicholas Metheny
GU14-02 Leg II
Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species (AMAPPS)
Cetacean and Turtle Abundance Spring Survey

2 thoughts on “Rare sightings: A Spectacular Week for the Seabird Team

  1. Pingback: A lazarus seabird expands to Nova Scotia : Contrarian

  2. Dear Michael and Nicholas,

    I’m doing an online mapping project for school, where I’m recording the location of Rare birds in 2014 in NS. I’d love to include the cahow in the map. Would you be able to provide me rough coordinates of the sighting, as well as grant permission to link to the photo hosted on this page?

    Thank-you,
    Ian Manning

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