Cahow chick’s maiden flight to air on camera

A fourth video camera has been set up at a cahow nesting site in an attempt to film a cahow chick spread its wings and head out to sea.

Nonsuch Expeditions and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York set up the camera on the surface at Nonsuch Island, unlike the other cameras which are in underground nesting burrows. The new camera will give a view of the island and coastline during the day as well as an infrared view of the cahow colony at night which will allow scientists and observers around the world to observe the birds’ behaviour.

It is hoped the camera will capture the most recent cahow chick, Cedar, as she prepares to fly offshore.

Charles Eldermire, of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said: “Watching the cahow nestling navigate the darkness and stretch its wings on the new cam shows a whole new side to Cedar, one that reinforces how close she is to heading out to sea.

“The daytime views of Nonsuch Island are spectacular and I can imagine lots of viewers tuning in just to bask in the beauty and to watch the longtails fly past on the wind.”

Jeremy Madeiros, the senior terrestrial conservation officer for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, added: “I project that Cedar, based on her weight and wing length, will fledge out to sea somewhere between June 4 and 8 so the launch of this new cam allowing us to witness this process is quite timely. When watching at night you will see her exercising and flapping her wings. However, there are no test flights, so the first time she actually flies she will head out to sea, not to return, if all goes well, for three to five years.”

The first “cahow cam” was launched eight years ago on Nonsuch Island. The live feeds and recordings from the cameras have resulted in over 20 million minutes of video being watched over the past three seasons.

The team also launched a “Longtail TropicbirdCam”.

New techniques and technology have allowed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to increase the nesting population of the cahow to a record 131 breeding pairs this year. There were only 17 to 18 pairs in the 1960s.