Bermuda Longtail Numbers Increase

Bernews reports that their Bermuda Longtail population has increased thanks to a long term artificial nest program. In Bermuda, the White-tailed Tropicbird is called the Longtail because of its elongated tail feathers. It is Bermuda’s most common nesting seabird; however, the bird population has been declining in the past years due to storm and hurricane impact, erosion, coastal development, and predation by introduced animals (including mammal and bird predators).

Conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros says with continued protection and management, the future now looks bright for the Bermuda Longtail — the island’s traditional herald of spring. Writing in the Bermuda Audubon Society’s winter newsletter, he says a longterm artificial nest programme has helped to boost numbers of the Bermuda Longtail — or White-tailed Tropicbird as it is correctly known — to between 2,500 and 3,000 breeding pairs.

“The Longtail is one of Bermuda’s best-known and most-loved bird species,” he said. “Long considered to be the first harbinger of spring and foretelling of warmer weather to come, the first sighting of a Longtail is an event that is always recorded in the local newspapers. “It was also long considered to be Bermuda’s unofficial National Bird, although that honour was officially given to the endemic and critically endangered Cahow, or Bermuda Petrel Pterodroma cahow in 2003.”

The Tropicbird is a beautiful, black and white seabird with a wingspan of just over three feet which can be found in subtropical seas in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Its most distinguishing features are the two incredibly long central tail feathers which provide the bird with its unofficial name –feathers longer than the rest of its.

“The North Atlantic contains a distinct sub-species, Phaethon lepturus catsbyi, which only nests in Bermuda, the Caribbean and islands off the northern coast of South America,” he said. “The Bermuda population of about 2500-3000 nesting pairs is very important as it represents about half of the entire population of this subspecies. “This means that Bermuda’s tropicbirds are not only important to the local environment, but are of international significance.” Mr. Madeiros said until recently it had been suspected Bermuda’s breeding population was declining.

As of 2011, a total of 96 artificial nests have been installed at seven of survey locations. [. . .] Out of these 96 nests, a total of 69 had nesting activity recorded during the 2011 nesting season, of which 55 produced successfully fledging chicks.

“This represents 79.7 percent breeding success with the artificial nests,” he said. “In comparison, in 2011 there were a total of 143 natural nests with nesting activity, of which 99 produced successfully fledged chicks, representing 69.2 percent breeding success. “The artificial nest sites therefore experienced 10.5 percent higher breeding success than the natural sites, a significant figure that confirms previous results from 2006 – 2008. Mr. Madeiros said these results illustrate that the programme of artificial nest installation has already been a success in maintaining and increasing the numbers of breeding pairs and fledged chicks and that it should be continued and, where appropriate, expanded. [. . .] He added, however, that ongoing measures were necessary to ensure the species continues to thrive in Bermuda.

[Many thank to Green Antilles blog for bringing this item to our attention:]

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